Empty Stocking Fund spreads holiday cheer

The idea is simple: Help others during the Christmas holidays.


In 1930, The Augusta Chronicle put this often suggested idea into practice by beginning The Empty Stocking Fund.

In those tough times, with the Great Depression beginning to cast a gloomy spell across the nation, The Chronicl e asked its readers to help one another by donating money to those in need -- particularly children.

The concept was not new.

In 1928, an unsigned editorial on the newspaper's opinion page praised efforts in the southwest Georgia town of Albany, which had set up an "empty stocking fund" to benefit children.

The seed had been planted.

In 1930, The Chronicle started its own Empty Stocking Fund, and on Christmas Day of that year, a front-page photograph shows Publisher Lovelace Eve presenting a check for $869.29 to Adjutant F.F. Fox of the Salvation Army.

The next year, The Chronicle continued to urge donations. Editorial page columnist "L.K.S." (which most of Augusta knew to be Louisa K. Smith) even added this poem to encourage compassion.

Three things there be that I cannot endure,

A little child too sick to help or cure,

A dying dog, killed by a neighbor's hate,

An empty stocking by an empty grate.

The effort continued through the years, sometimes calling itself the Cheerful Givers Fund. If money was tight, it let people donate in other ways.

In 1948, for example, The Chronicle urged holiday giving while congratulating W.H. Futch, of 2005 Roosevelt Drive, who gave "three gallons of syrup, a toy wheelbarrow and scooter."

The tradition has evolved, too. Early on, many contributors gave spare change or pennies.

Today, local companies have joined their customers and neighbors in showing generosity.

The Chronicle 's Empty Stocking Fund has remained one of this community's most consistent Christmas traditions over the past 80 years.

Augustans have generously responded.

In 2009, the fund collected $118,332, helping more than 1,800 families and many individuals enjoy a Christmas they would not otherwise have had.

The total also closed out a record-setting decade, which saw the annual holiday solicitation raise more than $1 million.

As in past years, many of the recipients of donations were caregivers, parents or others suffering through a family tragedy, illness or job loss who asked for some help in making Christmas brighter for their children.

"We thank our community for the generosity it continues to show in its annual contributions to the Empty Stocking Fund," Don Bailey, the president of The Chronicle , has said.