Empty Stocking celebrates 29th year

Odessans, local businesses have helped raise more than $2.2 million

The Empty Stocking Fund will celebrate 29 years this holiday season when it kicks off on Thanksgiving Day.

This annual fundraising effort by the Odessa American and The Salvation Army keeps all donations in Odessa and helps the neediest among us.

Bringing joy to a child’s life during the holidays is as simple as a quick donation and you can do it by mail, in person or online.

Funds raised purchase ingredients for a holiday meal and small gifts for children and needy senior citizens. Families apply for the help through the Salvation Army and staff members verify the needs of those applying.

Odessa American Editor Laura Dennis has been working with the fund for more than 26 years and says the need it fills in the community is important.

“This Fund really helps our friends and neighbors have a happy Christmas,” Dennis said. “What a wonderful way to address the needs in our community. All donations large and small are gratefully accepted each year.”

This year’s goal is $100,000, which is the same as last year. Last year $130,020.16 was raised to help Odessans. This year’s fund will provide hundreds of holiday meals for Odessans. “No one should have to worry about a Christmas dinner and donations help make that possible,” Dennis added.

Local businesses have been a driving force behind the success of the annual endeavor, Dennis said. “Without challenge grants from businesses, we would not be able to meet our goal each year.”

Starting on Thanksgiving Day the OA runs daily totals of what has been donated along with short stories of real people who are struggling this year and who will be helped through the Empty Stocking Fund. This year we know of many struggling grandparents who need help and also single parents raising children on limited funds.

Last year, about 400 families were helped through the fund, which included more than 1,000 children.

Captains Justin and Stephanie Vincent have only been in Odessa since this summer and are excited about the Empty Stocking Fund and helping Odessans with Christmas.

The Salvation Army expects to help about 300 families this year with about 1,350 children.

Justin Vincent said becoming a parent cemented for him how important the work the Salvation Army does at Christmas is. “The joy on a parent’s face keeps me going.”

His wife agreed. “We love Christmas,” she said. “We often see people at both their very best and their worst. Our goal is to help them get to the very best they can.”

Dennis encourages businesses and individuals to issue challenges this year to help meet the goal.

“We know there are many wonderful charities out there that do great work,” Dennis said. “But we are asking our friends and neighbors to again help The Salvation Army make sure that the neediest of Odessans know the joy of a great Christmas meal and that all children have a gift to open.”

The Salvation Army is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call 432-332-0738.

Call Editor Laura Dennis at 333-7740 for questions.

Please note “Empty Stocking Fund” on the note section of all checks. Gifts and food baskets will be distributed the week of Dec. 18.

Donors may drop off or mail donations at The Salvation Army, 810 E. 11th St., or the Odessa American, 700 N. Grant (Bank of America Building) Suite 800.

Online donations are accepted at https://give.salvationarmytexas.org/campaign/empty-stocking-fund-2023-odessa-texas/c529771