More than 850 Valdosta and Lowndes County children will have a brighter Christmas morning this year thanks to the annual Empty Stocking Fund and the continued generosity of The Valdosta Daily Times’ readers.
While each registered child will receive Christmas presents, Salvation Army Capt. Monica Nickum said the challenge this year is that some children will not get what they asked for. There is always a need for bicycles and video-game players.
The biggest need comes for toys for 12-year-old children and children under 2. There are shortages for toys and presents for these ages.
In hopes of filling these Christmas dreams, the Salvation Army is looking for adopting sponsors in addition to the donors whose names are regularly listed in The Times throughout late November and December.
Last year, the Empty Stocking Fund raised more than $30,000 — the highest amount ever for the fundraiser that has been a Christmas staple for decades.
Margie Blanton of Guardian Bank has kept the Empty Stocking account for the past several years.
“So many little children in our community get a Christmas that they normally wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the Empty Stocking Fund,” Blanton said. “And the children are what it’s all about. It’s simply amazing to see the outpouring of support from the people in our area and so many contributions also come from out of town and even other states.”
For decades, the Empty Stocking Fund has been ensuring that no Valdosta or Lowndes County youngsters awake Christmas morning to an empty stocking.
The Valdosta Daily Times started the Empty Stocking Fund in the mid 20th century. The Times partners with the Salvation Army and Guardian Bank in presenting the Empty Stocking Fund campaign each year.
“We live in a community that pulls together for the benefit of children,” said Jeff Masters, The Times publisher. “The generosity that shines through especially during the holidays is incredible and, I for one, appreciate our dedicated contributors in the Valdosta-Lowndes community.”
As for the Salvation Army, Nickum began work weeks ago for the annual Christmas charity.
She held registration for the Empty Stocking Fund families in early October. Registration has been closed for weeks.
From her list of registered children, Nickum checks with the Department of Family and Children Services and other Christmas toy organizations to ensure that no family is double-dipping. Empty Stocking families are receiving gifts only from the Empty Stocking Fund, Nickum says.
Also, under Nickum’s supervision, families are only allowed to register children for the Empty Stocking Fund for three consecutive years.
In late December, when it’s time for families to pick up their toys, Nickum does not want children attending. Partly so the child can enjoy the surprise of the gifts on Christmas morning and also to hopefully deter the children from growing up thinking they are not responsible for providing their children with Christmas presents. So they will not come to adulthood expecting someone to provide them with Christmas presents in the future.
This year, the Salvation Army will use a smaller distribution site, which will be announced closer to the date to registered families. In past years, the Salvation Army used an empty spot at Five Points. Distribution has also been cut from two days to one this year. Nickum said the Salvation Army will find a larger distribution site for the 2014 Christmas season.
To donate to the Empty Stocking Fund, send contributions to: Empty Stocking Fund, c/o Margie Blanton, Guardian Bank, P.O. Box 3340, Valdosta, Ga. 31604.