here were, according to officials with the Department of Social Services, 1,059 Robeson County children ages 1 to 13 who opened Christmas presents on Sunday morning because of the benevolence of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of Robesonians who opened their hearts first and then their wallets and purses. That is 86 more children than benefited during 2010 — but, and here is the only bit of disappointing news, 824 fewer than were deemed eligible to receive help from The Empty Stocking Fund.
According to the DSS, $52,950 that has been raised through The Empty Stocking Fund was used to purchase the presents, which paid for $50 worth of toys and other stuff from Kmart and Roses for each child. If you are paying really close attention, you might notice that the $52,950 is more than the $49,027 that was donated to the fund this year, but there was a bit of a balance in the account that needed to be reduced — and now has been.
There were 160 gifts this year, ranging from $10 to $7,300, the highest coming from an annual bowling tournament that involves dozens of people. The average gift was a shade over $300, impressive given the difficult economy.
The Empty Stocking Fund was the wonderful idea of somebody who worked at The Robesonian in the late 1970s or early 1980s, and although we have tried, we have been unable to come up with the name of the person who deserves full credit. That person understood that in this county there are plenty of people, churches, schools, businesses, civic groups, etc., who stood ready to put the merry in the Christmas of children in needy families if they were only asked. What better forum than Page 1A of the local newspaper to sound that call?
We don’t have exact figures, but we feel confident saying the fund in the 30-odd years has raised just more than $1 million, meaning it has provided Christmas for almost 25,000 children. The record amount raised during a single campaign remains $64,320 in 2007.
It’s important to know that the money that is donated goes directly to the gifts. There are no administrative costs, and the people at the Department of Social Services often work into their holiday to make sure that the money goes to the truly needy. This year, as an example, 45 families were deemed ineligible for reasons ranging from having provided conflicting information, to living out of the county, to having benefited from the fund last year.
So those who contribute can find comfort in knowing the money reaches the truly needy, and isn’t whittled down during the journey from your hands to under the Christmas tree.
Once again we want to extend thanks to those who contributed to this wonderful effort, whether it was their time or dollars. We are sure it brought joy not only to those of you who benefited, but those of you who gave.