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Empty Stocking: A meal and a gift

The 81st annual Wadena Pioneer Journal Empty Stocking Fund drive is underway. The fund helps local families who are struggling financially to have a better Christmas.

Gifts for older kids and toys other than stuffed animals are some of the most needed items, said Pioneer Journal General Manager Randy Mohs.

The fund receives many donations of little kids toys, Mohs said. Teenagers are harder to shop for. Bath and body gifts for girls and sporting equipment for boys are some suggested items.

Socks, hats and mittens are also good options that don't require a specific size.

Mohs emphasized that Empty Stocking can only give out new toys and gift items.

Monetary donations are important as well, Mohs said. The funds are used to purchase clothing in specific sizes and for the family's gift package.

Schools, churches and social agencies recommend recipients, he said.

Each family served by Empty Stocking receives a complete Christmas meal, clothing, a blanket or quilt and a toy for each child. Extra groceries are also included based on what was donated, Mohs said. Recipients of gift packages will be notified when they can pick them up.

Empty Stocking helps around 200 families a year, Mohs said. Last year the numbers were up to 220 families in communities including Wadena, Bluffton, Bertha, Hewitt, Deer Creek, Verndale, Sebeka and Menahga.

The Empty Stocking Fund talent program is the kickoff for gathering pledges. The show will take place from 7-10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the Wadena-Deer Creek High School commons. Diane Peters is organizing the event. KWAD/106 is donating time to broadcast the talent show. Volunteers will accept pledges.

Monetary contributions, gift items and non-perishable canned or boxed food may be dropped off at the Pioneer Journal between 8-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Donations may also be left at giving trees located at First National Bank of Wadena, Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative, Mid-Central Federal Savings Bank, Casey's General Store, West Central Telephone of Sebeka and Wadena State Bank of Bluffton, Deer Creek and Wadena.

Some local businesses also offer Empty Stocking special discounts for the fund to purchase gift items, Mohs said.

For the community Charter Communications is offering a special promotion through Dec. 15 in support of Empty Stocking. Charter will do installations at no cost other than the donation of a $10 toy to Empty Stocking.