Help the needy this Christmas season

Empty Stocking Fund celebrates 27 years

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.

The Empty Stocking Fund will celebrate 27 years this holiday season when it kicks off on Thanksgiving Day.

The Empty Stocking Fund is an annual fundraising effort by the Odessa American and The Salvation Army.

In a pleasant surprise, the Fund is off to a great start thanks to two early generous donations. The Wood Family Foundation donated $2,500 and the Hoiles family donated $350 early in honor of the late Bill Salter, a former Odessa American publisher who died this year. Salter started the Empty Stocking Fund in Odessa.

Donations to the Empty Stocking Fund stay in Odessa and help the neediest among us. 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

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 said this year’s goal is $100,000, which is the same as last year. Odessans were generous last year, although the goal was not met. In 2020, $55,054.29 was raised. After that first year of COVID, donations were down, but both The Salvation Army and the OA were grateful for the funds.

While 2021 has also been a tough year with economic woes as well as fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hopeful that Odessans will rally and help their neighbors by giving.

A number of Odessans are struggling this year and a happy holiday could be out of reach for them.

That’s where you and the Empty Stocking Fund come in.

“When you donate to the Empty Stocking campaign, you are helping struggling families by taking one less thing they have to worry about off their plate and give families the opportunity to have a peaceful Christmas,” Dennis said.

This is the 27th year of the Empty Stocking Fund and the total raised since it started is $2,114,251.13. All funds go to that good holiday meal and gifts under the Christmas tree.

Gifts were handed out to about 280 Odessa families through both the Angel Tree and Empty Stocking Fund programs at Odessa’s Salvation Army last year just before Christmas.

Last year, 1,200 children had a gift under the tree thanks to your generous giving.

Major Laura Melendez of Odessa’s Salvation Army said there are many needs during this second pandemic year. She said they expect to help 300 families with about 1,350 children this year.

“The Empty Stocking is unique to The Salvation Army in Odessa as it adds additional funds to facilitate providing toys and food boxes to families in need during Christmas,” Melendez said. “The way the Empty Stocking fundraiser involves donors in a direct way by sharing their resources with those less fortunate is amazing.”

This will be the first year for Melendez at Odessa’s Salvation Army.

“I’ve served in the Salvation Army for 18 years and I’ve never seen such a big fundraiser to help the Angel Tree program, Empty Stocking is extraordinary; I’m impressed that the Odessa American is investing in the needs of those less fortunate in the community in such a powerful way. I’m looking forward to working alongside the Empty Stocking fundraiser and express my deepest gratitude to those donors who contribute to make it such a successful fundraiser.”

This year’s fundraising drive starts on Thanksgiving Day.

Daily stories start on Thanksgiving Day in the OA and include real situations of those who have gone through the Empty Stocking Fund process and have provided proof of need. The OA uses fake names, but real situations.

The OA also runs daily totals to keep up with how much money has been raised and how much is still needed to fill the Empty Stocking. Right before Christmas, the funds are used to purchase food and small gifts for children and seniors.

“We know there are many, 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. We also want to help children celebrate the joy of the season with small gifts.”

The needs are dire this year with the COVID impact still going on.

“COVID has increased the needs of the less fortunate in all areas as we have seen an increase for assistance in our social services,” Melendez said. “Really, we continue to provide the same services, it’s just a little different the way we provide the service. For the Angel Tree program, we have implemented taking applications online rather than in person, so an online registration website has been created where parents enter all the household information and upload the documents needed (such as proof of address and valid ID). Some clients are asked to share their reason for applying; in our office, we verify their documents and approve them for the program; once approved, parents are given an appointment and time to pick-up their toys and food boxes.”

But bringing joy to the holiday is the reason for giving.

“You have an opportunity to bring joy to a child in need. Please give because it will benefit those from our very own community; it’s like helping a family member. And remember that giving is biblical: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

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.


Ring the Bell: The Salvation Army needs volunteer bell ringers this Christmas season. Groups can sign up now to ring bells at a number of locations in Ector County. One afternoon of bell ringing during the Christmas Kettle Campaign can raise enough money for The Salvation Army to shelter a homeless person for four nights and provide 12 hot meals. To become a volunteer bell ringer call 332-0738 or visit to sign up.