Time to fill the Empty Stocking

File Photo: Derrek Vaughn | The Valdosta Daily TimesSalvation Army Lts. Chris and Tasha Thomas prepare for a past Empty Stocking Fund.

VALDOSTA — About 1,300 South Georgia children are expected to have a brighter Christmas morning this year thanks to the annual Empty Stocking Fund and the continued generosity of The Valdosta Daily Times’ readers.

Salvation Army Lt. Tasha Thomas said the organization has already registered about 380 families this year and expects to register about 500 families.

Registration continues 8:30-10 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays through Dec. 5, Thomas said. 

Parents are asked to share what their children would like to have for Christmas during registration. The Salvation Army shops for the items and will then offer them to registered parents in a toy store atmosphere, Thomas said.

Registered parents will receive an appointment time to pick up their Empty Stocking gifts, she said.

Last year during the Christmas season, the Empty Stocking Fund raised about $40,000.

Margie Blanton of Guardian Bank has managed the Empty Stocking account for more than a decade.

“As always, I love being involved with this fundraiser because I know where every penny goes. Guardian Bank graciously allows us to hold the funds at the bank with no service fees and we have absolutely no administration costs associated with the Empty Stocking Fund,” Blanton said. “Everything is done on a volunteer basis.”

For decades, the Empty Stocking Fund has been ensuring 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 Valdosta Daily 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.”

The Times will include a donation envelope for the Empty Stocking Fund in an early December edition. The envelope has led to increased donations since being introduced several years ago.

As for the Salvation Army, work began weeks ago for the annual Christmas charity.

Lts. Chris and Tasha Thomas held registration for the Empty Stocking Fund families in October.

Blanton has already started working on the fund.

“As always, I love those contributors that have payroll deductions that come throughout the year,” she said. “They don’t wait until the holidays to give, they have a check sent every month directly from their payroll and that is such a nice way to contribute all year long to a very worthy cause in our community.”

The Outback Riders has become a big part of the Empty Stocking Fund.

The annual toy ride is scheduled for Dec. 21. Hundreds of bikers, each carrying a toy, thunder from Lake Park to Valdosta to donate toys and money to the Salvation Army for the Empty Stocking Fund.

To donate to the Empty Stocking Fund, send contributions to: Empty Stocking Fund, c/o Margie Blanton, Guardian Bank, P.O. Box 3400, Valdosta, Ga. 31604.

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