11/24/05 — Empty Stocking Fund makes dreams come true

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Empty Stocking Fund makes dreams come true

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on November 24, 2005 1:48 PM

Each year, Jackson & Sons Heating & Air Conditioning sends its customers a thank-you ... and the customers thank them back.

The thank-you is a contribution to the Empty Stocking Fund, a project that provides needy children with toys, clothes and a party during the holiday season.

Jackson & Sons makes the contribution "instead of giving out big, fancy presents," says company co-owner David Jackson. "We send a card to our maintenance contract customers and say we are making a donation in their names. We get cards thanking us for honoring them in that way."

The Empty Stocking Fund is a local project, and it helps local children at a time of year when they might get left out, Jackson says.

It serves an important need.

And that need is a big one.

As is true with such organizations as the Salvation Army, the Empty Stocking Fund attempts to serve children who aren't getting Christmas gifts from other organizations.

There are so many of them. This year, the Empty Stocking Fund will provide gifts for 602 youngsters, ages 3 through 10.

The gifts will be given at a party at Dillard School on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 9 a.m. until about noon. There will be entertainment, refreshments and a visit from Santa.

Each child will get a toy of his or her choice, a big stocking full of fruit and candy, and a box of clothing which will include underwear, socks, a pair of slacks, a shirt, and either a second shirt, vest or sweater, says Barbara Sturm, the Empty Stocking Fund's treasurer.

Each year, the gifts are bought "on faith" that the money will be contributed, she says.

Each year, the public comes through, often surpassing the original goal.

Last year's goal was $33,000. This year, it's $34,000, a thousand higher to offset increased prices.

Recipients are recommended through the schools. There is so much need that sometimes the number is bigger than what can be provided.

People who contribute money to the Empty Stocking Fund will be acknowledged in the Goldsboro News-Argus, unless they prefer not to be. They can make their donations in honor or memory of someone, if they wish.

Donations are accepted throughout the year, with most of them coming in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One hundred percent of the money donated goes to the children.

Sometimes fund-raising for the Empty Stocking Fund begins early, as was the case for the Movie Gallery.

Three of its stores celebrated "Christmas in July" by holding special events on Saturday, July 16.

The store on N.C. 111 held a balloon pop. Customers would buy a chance and choose which balloon to pop, says Heather Miller, senior customer service associate and the person who initiated and led the stores' fund-raisers. Each balloon held a prize, with prizes ranging from items worth $1 to a DVD player.

The Movie Gallery on U.S. 70 West had a hot dog sale, and the store on New Hope Road sold snow cones.

Taylor Michaels visited all three stores during the day to perform magic. UBI the clown made an appearance at the New Hope location, and Sunshine the face painter and the Arrington Fire Department were at the 111 store.

"Christmas is really important to me," Ms. Miller says. "It's a family thing.

"I realized a long time ago that a lot of families, a lot of children, are in need. I wanted to do something for them."

Businesses aren't the only ones who get involved. Schools, churches and individuals also help.

For more than a decade, Eastern Wayne Elementary students have contributed and will do so again this year, says Principal Veda McNair.

"The children want to help," she says.

Coverage of natural disasters that occurred in parts of the U.S. this year have given them an increased awareness of need.

This year, students contributed 1,000 dollar bills to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. They have also collected dollar bills for the Empty Stocking Fund.

A lesson about responsibility was incorporated into the Empty Stocking Fund fund-raiser, Mrs. McNair says. Students were encouraged not to ask their parents to give them a dollar, but instead to earn it by doing chores at home.

Each morning for about two weeks prior to Thanksgiving break, the school's morning announcements included an update about how much each grade level had raised.

Another regular contributor is First United Methodist Church in Mount Olive.

The Pairs and Spares Sunday School class and the Fellowship Sunday School class give each year, as does the men's group that cooks peanuts.

What motivates them to give is that it's an important project that helps children, says Lynne Jackson, the church's secretary and bookkeeper.

People who wish to give to the Empty Stocking Fund can do so by bringing or mailing contributions to the Goldsboro News-Argus. Checks should be made payable to the Empty Stocking Fund and, if a person wishes to make the contribution in honor or memory of someone, it should be noted on the check's memo line.

The Empty Stocking Fund was established in 1912 and is run completely by volunteers. The News-Argus raises the money and plans the party; the Goldsboro Woman's Club does the toy shopping and, along with the Elks Lodge, fills the stockings; and the Continental Society helps hand out clothing.