• November 28, 2020

Empty Stocking Fund celebrates 26 years - Odessa American: Local News

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Empty Stocking Fund celebrates 26 years

Help needy Odessa families during this difficult year

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Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2020 4:00 am

It’s been a tough year with economic woes as well as fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

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

Fund raised go to buying the ingredients for a holiday meal and small gifts for children from families who apply for the help through the Salvation Army.

Odessa American Editor Laura Dennis said this year’s goal is $100,000, which is the same as last year. Odessans rallied last year and actually raised $112,415 after several business challenges encouraged even more giving.

“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 26th year of the Empty Stocking Fund and the total raised during the last 26 years is at more than $2 million to help needy families in Odessa have a good holiday meal and gifts under the Christmas tree.

Gifts were handed to about 237 Odessa families through both the Angel Tree and Empty Stocking Fund programs at Odessa’s Salvation Army last year just before Christmas.

Last year, 1,052 children had a gift under the tree thanks to your generous giving.

Capt. Clara Gomez of Odessa’s Salvation Army said there are many needs during this pandemic year.

“It is evident that so many people in our community are hurting and reaching out for help. With Christmas right around the corner, we are counting on our community to help us keep Christmas as normal as possible for children. That is always our goal. No matter what hardships life brings, we are trying to keep the holidays as normal as possible for families,” Gomez said of the Empty Stocking Fund.

She said as of Nov. 4, about 265 families had signed up, but they are taking applications through December for emergency situations.

“We are seeing a lot of first time families applying for this assistance, who have children ranging from newborns all the way to 15,” she said. “When we ask what are the needs of their children, many parents are saying FOOD. Lots of parents are simply just asking for the basics of clothing for their children because they do not know when they will be able to purchase clothing.”

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.”

All funds raised stay in Ector County and any leftover funds are used for Odessa Salvation Army programs year round.

Gomez said volunteers are still needed.

“We do need volunteers who will be able to help us in December. We will need all the help we can get on distribution day, Dec. 17th from 8:30 a.m. until we are finished distributing. Because of the pandemic, we are doing a drive through distribution and will need help loading Christmas toys into vehicles.”

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.

OTHER WAYS TO HELP:

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 www.registertoring.com to sign up.

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