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Empty Stocking in Wadena needs help to fill its holiday needs

Lexie Thompson performed "Silent Night" accompanied by Matthew Greenwaldt at the Empty Stocking Talent Show in 2016. (submitted photo).

Empty Stocking has been a part of the Wadena community for 91 years and takes care of approximately 250 families and 600 children, and according to coordinator Kelly Wong, if the program is going to continue to serve families in need, it needs your help.

"We'll be packing boxes soon, and we really need volunteers to help with that part of the project," Wong said. "They can call me at 320-429-5088 to sign up or they can check our new Facebook page, Wadena Empty Stocking Fund."

Since Empty Stocking relies on volunteers, and they want to accommodate for work schedules, there will be a day shift and night shift, each consisting of 15 people over a four-day period. Wong doesn't have an exact start date yet but said as soon as she knows, it will be posted on the Facebook page.

"I'm very grateful to the folks who set that up," she added. "Teamwork is essential to Empty Stocking and the passion to take care of people. That's what makes it work, and when you see people who need so much, when you think of those children who don't have anything, that's what makes keeping this project going so important."

She's happy to have families come out and volunteer. There's no age limit, she just asks that younger kids are with a parent. "It's a great opportunity for kids to volunteer and be a part of something that helps others during the holidays."

The program could still use donations in the form of gift items and food, and they will get more donations through the Empty Stocking Talent Program on November 29th at the high school.

People call Wong directly wanting to know what to donate, but she said going through Wadena County Human Services to find out exactly what is needed is their best bet.

The process begins with families being nominated by the schools, churches, Wadena County Human Services and Mahube-Otwa.

Wong takes the monetary donations and purchases gifts and food, plus toiletry items, mittens and hats for the kids. She said the goal is to take care of the entire family.

"Our food bill is about $7,000. Each family receives a Christmas dinner box that contains a ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, cake mix, frosting, candy, jello, canned fruit, and canned vegetables," she explained.

She wants to make sure folks know that toy donations need to be new items, not used or gently used.

Wong has been a part of it since 2013 and said she decided to take part because she has a passion to help people.

"We can't buy them big items, but we can make sure they have the things they need to be warm and have a gift," she said. "And Christmas is the season for giving. We have to take care of people."

To volunteer, call Kelly Wong at 320-429-5088 or check out the Facebook page, Wadena Empty Stocking Fund.