TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
For a quarter of a century, the Southeast Kentucky Empty Stocking Fund has made Christmas possible for thousands of children who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity.
This year, needy children in the Tri-County region need your support more than ever.
Now in its 26th straight year, the Empty Stocking Fund is getting into high gear as we get closer to Christmas.
Signups for this year’s campaign are Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., at Forest Bowling Lanes on the Cumberland Falls Highway in Corbin.
Joe Caldwell said Tuesday this year’s goal is to serve over 500 children.
To do that, their looking at raising $38,000 — the same as last year — to buy gifts, clothing and other items for those kids and their families.
“We do have some major corporate sponsors for this year, including Rudd Equipment, Walmart, and all the major banks. As in previous years, Forest Bowling Lanes provides free bowling for the children, with Pizza and Company always providing free pizza for the children, while Waste Connections provides new bicycles for some of the children. This year, we’re looking for assistance from those who’ve not participated in the last few years. There’s always a need,” said Caldwell, President of the Southeast Kentucky Empty Stocking Fund and Past District Governor of Rotary International.
He added signups for this year’s campaign were moved up a week earlier, due to Rotary International’s district conference in Louisville.
Last year’s campaign served 501 children and 260 families. To help those kids and their families, fundraising totaled $38,000 from cash and in-kind gifts.
Caldwell said they usually get more children and families to sign up than the Empty Stocking Fund is able to serve. Because of that, they’re looking for people and organizations to help them out.
“We’ll start collecting contributions as soon as donors wish to make them available,” he added.
Contributions can be sent to the Southeast Kentucky Empty Stocking Fund, P. O. Box 511, Corbin, KY 40702.
If you have questions, contact any Rotary Club member or Caldwell at (606) 878-7935 or (606) 524-6475.
This year’s party will be Friday, Dec. 20 at Forest Bowling Lanes, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Gov. Steve Beshear has been invited to attend, as well as other state officials.
As in previous years, wrapping the gifts will take place the night before the party. The wrapping will take place on Thursday, Dec. 19, at a site to be announced later.
In a letter to The Times-Tribune emailed Tuesday, Caldwell pointed out that children throughout Whitley, Knox and Laurel counties from newborn babies to age 17 from low-income or no-income families are eligible to participate.
“Communities in these counties include Corbin, London, Lily, Keavy, Woodbine, Rockholds, Williamsburg, Barbourville, Boone Heights, Gray and Lynn Camp. Almost all of the children accepted into the Empty Stocking Fund program do not participate in any other non-profit groups’ Christmas parties. Sometimes more than 250 other children sign up for the Empty Stocking Fund, but we don’t have the funds to serve them. Those children are usually placed with other non-profits,” the letter said.
Each family receives a blanket, board games, books, candy and sometimes, a bicycle for some of them.
Each child receives a wrapped gift, athletic shoes and five pairs of socks.
The Southeast Kentucky Empty Stocking Fund is a collaboration between the Corbin Rotary Club and The Times-Tribune. It started in 1988 from an idea by former Publisher Wink Devane. That very first fundraiser gave a Christmas present for about 80 children, thanks to donations, along with club members and volunteers wrapping presents up on the second floor of the Times-Tribune building.
The Christmas party was moved to the Corbin Civic Center by 1990, and moved to Forest Bowling Lanes — its current location — in 1993.
Once contributions begin coming in, donors and gift levels are recognized, which continue through December. Gifts and other items are then purchased by Rotary Club members and ultimately unloaded, recognized and wrapped for the party.
Gov. Beshear came by to visit the party in 2009, with former governors Ernie Fletcher and Paul Patton stopping by on several occasions.
Caldwell added from 1995 to 2006, “you could count on the Governor of Kentucky to be at the party every December.”