The cooler weather and approaching holidays also means it’s time for the Bladen Journal’s annual Empty Stocking Fund, a community effort aimed at making Christmas a happier day for as many children of low-income families as possible.
“We look forward to this time of year because, without a doubt, it brings out the very best of Bladen County residents, who are compassionate and giving,” said W. Curt Vincent, general manager and editor of the newspaper. “Every year the need is great, and one way or another the community fills the gap.”
Last year was a challenging one for Bladen County communities and the Empty Stocking Fund, coming on the heels of Hurricane Matthew and the devastation it left behind.
But the Empty Stocking Fund still brought in a total of $7,578 which, in the end, managed to benefit more than 150 local children for Christmas.
“We’re really hoping to be able to push that number to 200 children,” Vincent said, “but it will require a real commitment from the community to reach that number. We’ve done it before.”
In the past, the staff of the Bladen Journal has set a goal for dollars collected. But not this year.
“Instead, we will stretch every dollar received as far as we can — but personally, I’m putting the number of $12,000 out there as the amount that will put me on the Bladen Journal roof for 24 hours,” Vincent added. “I’ve tried to entice the public to send me up there every year — perhaps this is the year they can do it.”
He said the 24-hour period would be from 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 22, to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 24.
Vincent urged individuals, businesses, church groups, school groups and civic organizations to consider supporting the Empty Stocking Fund effort with a donation of any size. The collection is now underway and will continue through Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Donations can be made by sending a check to “Empty Stocking Fun” and mailed to P.O. Box 70, Elizabethtown, N.C. 28337; or bringing a cash donation to the Bladen Journal office at 138 W. Broad St. in downtown Elizabethtown. With advance notice, a donation can also be picked up by calling 910-862-4163.
Those who donate $250 or more will have the opportunity to have a photo taken for publication in the Bladen Journal. All donations will be listed in the newspaper as they are received, and donations can be made anonymously or in memory of someone.
How to apply
Applications for the Empty Stocking Fund are now being accepted only at the Bladen County Department of Social Services, located at 208 McKay St. in Elizabethtown, during regular business hours.
The Bladen Journal will not have applications available, and the newspaper staff does not select recipients for Empty Stocking Fund benefits.
DSS will accept applications through Thursday, Nov. 30.