This is a column by Executive Editor Jill Nevels-Haun.
Fifty-one Christmas seasons ago, the government grinches cut funding for a program that purchased Christmas gifts for 280 Savannah-area foster children.
State tax collections were slow that year, and the budget was facing a shortfall as the holidays approached. The Georgia Department of Family and Children Services told foster parents across the state they wouldn't be getting the annual gift bonus, which amounted to $2,000 for local foster kids.
Empty Stocking Fund: Grandmother raising kids on fixed income anxious about Christmas
This news disturbed this publication's then senior leaders, General Manager James L. Whyte and Executive Editor Wallace M. Davis, Jr. They decided to use the newspaper's reach and voice to assist those foster children and raised $17,000 - the equivalent of $108,000 in today's dollars - to ensure all 208 kids had a very merry Christmas.
To donate, please send checks made payable toSCF – Empty Stocking Fund, 2225 Norwood Avenue, Suite B, Savannah, Georgia 31406.
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The initial success led to an endearing tradition and this year we celebrate 51 years of the Empty Stocking Fund. The drive continues through Christmas Day, and readers will meet many of the recipients through profiles published daily in print and online.
This annual drive ensures that every local child, especially those whose families are enduring hardships and tragedies, wakes up Christmas morning to find a gift with his or her name on it. The fund fills stockings for kids whose parents recently lost jobs, whose families are dealing with sickness or personal tragedies and for those who just need a little joy in their lives.
Savannah and the spirit of giving
For many residents, contributing to the Empty Stocking Fund is a holiday tradition. Dating to the inaugural drive, Savannahians have donated millions of dollars.
Giving is easier than ever this year with online giving. Look for "Empty Stocking Fund: How to donate" on the SavannahNow.com home page. Open that story and click on the "Donate" link. As in years past, donors can also mail in checks. Just make them payable to SCF - Empty Stocking Fund and send to 2225 Norwood Avenue, Suite B, Savannah, Georgia 31406.
The Empty Stocking Fund is a partnership between the Savannah Morning News and the Savannah Community Foundation. The United Way of the Coastal Empire and The Salvation Army help identify families in need and review applications for assistance.
Then as is now, the Thanksgiving Day, 1971 newspaper was fat with advertising ahead of the weekend's shopping holiday.
Even those anxious to peruse the retail circulars couldn't miss the launch of the Empty Stocking Fund - editors printed a news story about the initiative across the top of the front page, the most visible space in the daily newspaper.
The story read as follows: "Christmas is a time of warmth, of giving ... and of sharing with the less fortunate."
The same is true today, and our leadership remains committed to filling those stockings. Help us put Christmas morning smiles on the faces of Savannah's needy children by giving this holiday season.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Savannah Empty Stocking Fund to help need families marks anniversary