The Southeast Kentucky Empty Stocking Fund is celebrating a milestone — 30 years of helping less fortunate children experience the magic of Christmas.
The charity is an effort spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Corbin. Joe Caldwell, a Rotary Club member who is President of the Empty Stocking Fund, has participated in the effort for 29 of those 30 years.
“I have to believe that we have a pretty unique program,” Caldwell said. “It’s probably one-of-a-kind in the Rotary Club organizations throughout the state, and even several states I’ve been to. Other Rotary Club officials have mentioned what a wonderful program they think it is.”
Caldwell said the growth of the Empty Stocking Fund, and its reach, has been satisfying. Early on, it would raise $10,000 to $12,000 to buy toys and other gifts for area children. Now, that amount is closer to $38,000, including in-kind donations.
“It’s off to a good start again this year. We’ve got some sizeable donations,” Caldwell said.
“We have a number of faithful donors in the Corbin area that have been doing it for 10, 15 or even 20 years,” he added. “There are a number of good business people and banks that feel the same way I do that the program is well worth what we put into it. We also have new partners and people joining us each year. It’s an ongoing process.”
Families are pre-qualified through an application process for the Empty Stocking Fund. The effort culminates each year in a party where gifts are given away. For years, that event happened at Forest Lanes bowling alley in Corbin, but when it closed, the event was moved to The Corbin Center and Tri-County Cineplex. Everyone who attends will receive pizza, theater refreshments, and a movie.
Caldwell said Waste Connections provides bicycles to children who take part in the event. Shoes and coats are also given, along with a toy.
Right at 432 people signed up last year to receive gifts from the Empty Stocking Fund. Caldwell said about 400 have signed up with another day of sign ups to go at the Red Roof Inn on Cumberland Falls Hwy., Dec. 2 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
“Any business or individuals who want to join us from the tri-counties area to contribute financially or in-kind will be recognized and I know their efforts will benefit the children,” Caldwell said. “We currently have families from London, East Bernstadt, Lily, Keavy, and North Corbin in Laurel County. We also have signed up families from Gray, Barbourville, Lynn Camp, and East Corbin, in Knox County. And, we have families from Woodbine, Rockholds, Williamsburg, and Corbin in Whitley County.”
The Empty Stocking Fund Christ event will take place on the morning of Dec. 2. Volunteers who want to help wrap gifts can do so on the evening of Dec. 20 at The Corbin Center. For more information, contact Caldwell at 606-878-7935.