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Stockings seem emptier than ever

It's been a tradition for decades in Wadena, organized by the Wadena Pioneer Journal and now with our new partners, the Madhatters. The need this year is likely to be the highest in decades, too, and there may be some actual empty stockings.

Like other charities, the Empty Stocking Fund is being hit from two sides. First, the downturn in the economy has understandably made donors be extra careful with money. Second, the need for assistance has never been greater. If the demand for this service has heated up during the last five years, this year we expect it to explode.

Empty Stocking is pretty simple: after gathering donations from area communities, we purchase (at a discount, thanks to great business partners) a Christmas meal for needy families, and with whatever is left over, gifts for every kid. It literally often means turning misery into happiness for one day in people's lives: a little piece of the Christmas miracle. It could be a pair of boots to walk to school for a 12-year-old, or a new pair of jeans for an 8-year-old, or a teddy bear for a 1-year-old.

It doesn't sound like much, but you'd be surprised. It's enough to cause tears for parents who know their loved ones will have something under the tree.

There aren't any administrative fees involved. Volunteer labor from many groups like Boy Scouts, senior center volunteers, talent show participants and coordinator, Rotary distribution centers, Pioneer Journal staff and many more take care of the elbow grease. The gifts are housed here at the PJ at no charge. One of our staff members, Cari Crooker, is running the project this year on her free time. The food and gifts are bought locally and distributed locally.

I know this is a tough year, and some people won't be able to give what they've given in the past. That's understandable. But it means we'll have to plead twice as hard just to cover basic needs this year.

This year we're adding a silent auction to the talent show to add some fun and raise a little more cash, and we're looking for any good donated items now. But what we'll really need this year is money, to buy food at a discount and toys at a discount. The money goes a long way. If you're doing OK this year, and you can afford to help someone who isn't doing OK, please contact Cari at (218) 631-2561 and make a donation. You'll never meet the local family you help, but rest assured, you would be making a Christmas a little brighter.

Everyone deserves some joy at Christmas. With your help, we can make sure every kid in the region is well-fed and happy on that day.

The Pioneer Journal's editorial is the collective voice of the editorial board. Today's piece was written by Steve Schulz, the PJ's editor and publisher.