– Eric Sevareid
Sunday afternoon’s Empty Stocking Fund Benefit Concert at First Baptist Church continues one of our community’s most consistent examples of generosity.
The 3 p.m. musical presentation will mark its 20th year as initial fundraiser for the 81-year-old holiday charity that has raised funds to make Christmas brighter for children and families in distress.
Over the past decade, Augustans have donated more than $1 million to help those less fortunate.
Such charity follows that wonderful theme of the
holiday and it has done so since The Chronicle first suggested the effort in the early days of the Great Depression.
The idea was not original. In fact, an unsigned editorial on our opinion page in 1928 praised efforts in the southwest Georgia town of Albany, which had set up an “empty stocking fund” to benefit children.
Then in 1930, The Chronicle started its own Empty Stocking Fund, and on Christmas Day of that year, a front-page photograph depicted Adjutant F.F. Fox of the Salvation Army receiving a check for $869.29 from newspaper publisher Lovelace Eve.
The next year, The Chronicle continued to urge donations. Editorial page columnist Louisa K. Smith even penned a poem to encourage giving.
“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.
Sometimes the newspaper joined forces with other community sponsors, but usually it undertook the effort on its own. For much of that time, the fund’s champion was Marie LeRoy, a company and corporate secretary for more than 50 years.
The tradition evolved. Early on, many contributors gave spare change or pennies. Some gave other things.
In 1948, for example, The Chronicle congratulated W.H. Futch, of 2005 Roosevelt Drive, who donated “three gallons of syrup, a toy wheelbarrow and scooter.”
Today, local companies have joined their customers and neighbors in showing generosity.
In 2010, the fund collected more than $115,000, helping more than 1,200 families and many individuals enjoy a Christmas they would not otherwise have had.
There is an envelope in today’s edition to help you donate.
You can also contribute online at augustachronicle.com/emptystocking.
Christmas is a time of traditions and the Empty Stocking Fund is one of Augusta’s oldest. We’d love for you to help us continue it.