Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Bill Kirby: Help the needy this Christmas

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The value of a man resides in what he gives.

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– Albert Einstein

Christmas will be here before we know it.

It is a time of traditions, and the Empty Stocking Fund is one of Augusta’s oldest.

Begun during the darker days of the Great Depression, this community effort has helped tens of thousands over the years have a holiday they might have missed.

We’d love for you to help us continue the effort.

There will be an envelope in Sunday’s edition to help you donate this year. You can contribute online at augustachronicle.com/emptystocking, and you can also attend Sunday afternoon’s Empty Stocking Fund Benefit Concert at First Baptist Church.

The 3 p.m. musical presentation will mark its 21st year as the initial fundraiser for the 82-year-old holiday charity that has raised money 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 spirit of the holiday, as it has since 1930.

The idea was not original; many newspapers in the 1920s championed holiday giving.

Then in 1930, the Chronicle started its own Empty Stocking Fund, and on Christmas Day of that year a front-page photograph shows 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 actually wrote a poem to encourage the effort.

“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 called 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 loyal company employee for more than 50 years.

The tradition evolved.

Sixty years ago, school organizations took part.

A photograph in the Dec. 21, 1952, edition of the Chronicle shows several at Richmond Academy – including “Frank Christian Jr., president of the Richmond Singing Musketeers” – donating after a musical benefit.

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

In 2011, the fund collected more than $104,000, which helped more than 1,000 families and individuals during the holidays.

As I said, Christmas will be here before we know it.

The Empty Stocking Fund will help make it a bit happier for those in need.


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