Empty Stocking Program sets annual toy drop-off Friday 
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Dec. 6, 2006 - Christmas Eve is the biggest day of the year for dear old Saint Nick, but he doesn’t pull it off alone. And, unfortunately neither can some 400 plus families in Hopkins County.

That’s where programs like Empty Stocking come in.

Like Santa’s elves, Empty Stocking volunteers work year-round raising money and collecting toys, so that no child in Hopkins County has to go without presents at Christmas.

Empty Stocking volunteers hold seasonal functions throughout the year to raise enough money to buy each child on their list at least four brand new toys and two new books.

The program assisted about 500 families and more than 1,000 children last year, and program officials anticipate the need to assist that many and probably more this year. Already this year, the program is preparing for 400 families, and anticipate having quite a few more before the  end of the sign up. 

Those families hoping to apply should stop by Hopkins County Community Action Network’s Can Help Building, 525 Church St., between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. through Thursday to apply. Those applying must meet certain financial guidelines in order to benefit from the program.

"It’s amazing how many there are. The department of Health and Human Services sends letters out to families with kids who are also on food stamps. They sent out about 775 this year. That’s a lot of families who are struggling to make it. It’s not as easy to qualify as some think," said Gina Prickette, a program volunteer who has helped 

Friday, Dec. 8 will be perfect opportunity for those wanting to help. The annual Empty Stocking Program Toy Drop Off will be conducted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday in front of Guaranty Bond Bank. To help, just drive through the parking lot and drop off unwrapped toys in the designated area. Cash donations will also be accepted.

For those who want to donate but who can’t make the toy drop off, First United Methodist Church at 301 Church St. and Coldwell Banker Watson Company at 16005 South Broadway St. will also be accepting donations in designated areas for the Empty Stocking Program.

Not sure what to buy or what exactly is needed? No problem. Santa’s elves helpers have gone high tech.

Empty Stocking’s wish list is now accessible through the computer registry at any Wal-Mart Store, generally located near the jewelry department, or online at www.walmart.com. Select the wish list option from the menu, then enter "Empty-Stocking" in the blank for the first name and "Charity" in the space for the last name. Items purchased in the store can be scanned and noted on the list as acquired when purchased at the store. Just drop them off at either the Friday event or either FUMC or Coldwell Banker Watson Company.

Monetary donations in the form of check may be made out and mailed to Project Empty Stocking, P.O. Box 2218, Sulphur Springs, TX 75483. Donations are accepted at that address year round.

Any monetary donations raised within the next few weeks will be used to pick up items on the group’s Christmas list that were not gathered during trips to wholesale toy markets earlier in the year and to help cover the cost of those earlier shopping trips.

Can’t financially afford the cost of a toy or monetary donation, but want to help? Prickette said the program is always in need of individuals willing to donate their time to the program, whether it be helping sort toys for distribution, manning toy drives such as Friday’s annual GBB Toy Drop Off or in other areas.

"We always need money and we always need toys, and will take just about any help we can get. We’ve got some high school kids, the Spanish Club, coming over this afternoon to work. We’ll also take any help with the Friday event if anyone’s interested," Prickette said Tuesday afternoon.

Another special concert is planned for 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center to benefit both the Empty Stocking and Blue Santa toy assistance programs. Blue Santa also assists needy families in providing Christmas gifts for their children, through donations may to the Blue Santa barrels located in stores and businesses throughout the county. The program is sponsored by the local law enforcement associations, hence the "blue" label.

"For the first time, the Civic Center is holding a concert benefiting Empty Stocking and Blue Santa," said Pansy Bell. "The program will be great with a Branson group called The Texans, Monty Tipps and Main Street Band, First Baptist Youth choir performing, but more importantly a portion of your ticket will go to Blue Santa and Empty Stocking. Theses guys work so hard to meet the needs of families in our county. We just wanted to so something to show how much we appreciate their efforts."

"‘The Reason For The Season’ Christmas Show" kicks off at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center Auditorium Saturday. For tickets call 903-885-9071 or go online to www.civiccenter.com.

For more information about Empty Stocking, ways to help or donate, toy drives or other information call Gina Prickette at 903-885-1534 and leave a message with contact information so she can get back to you promptly.

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