LIMA — The Lima region’s generosity was on display again this year through the Empty Stocking Fund.
The program raised $25,847 in 2016, making sure children’s stockings weren’t empty when they awoke Christmas morning. Through the program’s 25 years, it has raised $711,137 to brighten Christmases throughout the region.
“It’s the simple generosity of people in our region that makes all the difference,” said Doug Olsson, publisher of The Lima News. “Through your donations to the Empty Stocking Fund, many families that would otherwise feel left out of the holiday spirit get to enjoy it this year.”
Donations of cash and items fulfilling specific needs helped make the holiday season brighter for each family. The program benefits holiday events at Bradfield Community Center and Mizpah Community Center in Lima, as well as helping the Salvation Army’s holiday efforts.
“It’s had a big impact this year,” said Major Debbie Stacy, of the Salvation Army.
Donors stepped up this year with memorable donations of physical items, she said. Crews helped move beds to some clients. One family received a couch. One story mentioned the need for bedding, and children received several sets. Another story mentioned a crowded home, and a volunteer helped clean out the gentleman’s house to make room for a Christmas celebration.
“It’s good to see the community pitch in to help one another,” she said.
Donors kept coming through the doors at The Lima News to leave behind memorable gifts, usually carrying a copy of the story that motivated their generosity.
One person donated a $500 check. Another brought in five new coats. Yet another asked to bring in a decorated Christmas tree for a family that had none. One donor brought in five lightly used yellow-and-black bicycles that had been used for contractors to get around the Husky Lima Energy worksite.
The Republican Party of Allen County brought in a large collection of toys, which were handed out at the Mizpah Community Center’s event. Someone sent a $50 Menards gift card for the story subject who wanted building materials to improve a home.
Each day between Thanksgiving through Christmas, The Lima News shared a story about 29 different families in need in the region.
One of the most popular stories of the season talked about Rachel, who wanted to provide a good Christmas for her nearly 2-year-old son after her lifelong love, Jake, died from a heart attack.
Others felt for Kristy, a 22-year-old mother who said she had a good life despite growing up with a drunk mother, who died from a drug overdose and dealing with beatings and molestation from her father.
“I want to be the parent that I never had,” Kristy said. “I just want to be a good parent.”
Others took heart in the story of Shelly, who lost a good full-time job and had trouble getting disability from an injury several years ago. She and her husband, Phil, just wanted to provide a good holiday to children who don’t understand their financial struggles.
They’re just examples of the stories of need and optimism shared since Thanksgiving.
The program fell short of its goal of raising $35,000 this year, but people can continue to donate through the end of the year. All donations, no matter the size, help to make the season brighter.
The program really does make a difference in the community, Olsson said.
“Through all of your efforts, a child continues to believe, a parent retains their hope, and families celebrate together with optimism for the future,” Olsson said. “That is the greatest gift of all.”
Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.