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Last-minute buying helps Christmas Bureau meet obligations for holiday gifts

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/23/17/48/C30Ja.Em.138.jpeg|316
    PHOTOS BY T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Eight-year-old Destiny Rogers walks out with her favorite Christmas bike along with her mother and siblings after winning in the wheel spin.
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    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Ebony Wiggins, right, celebrates after volunteer Barbara McGill, center, tells her she has won a bike for her 12-year old son in the wheel spin game.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/23/17/48/fnNCV.Em.138.jpeg|209
    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Bank of America volunteers Daniel Blasty and Mary Weiland select presents and toys for a family.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/23/17/48/gQv7Y.Em.138.jpeg|217
    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Salvation Army Lt. Janai Olige – with the help of volunteer Amelia Phelps 8 – fulfills a family’s gift package.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/23/17/48/1td4Vo.Em.138.jpeg|218
    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Sherinita Feaster waits for her husband and daughter after winning a bike in the wheel spin.

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  • The Empty Stocking Fund

    Charlotte Observer readers have given generously to the Empty Stocking Fund since about 1920. Last year, readers gave more than $286,000 to buy gifts for children in need. All contributions go to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau, which buys toys, food, clothing and gift cards for families. To qualify for the gifts, a recipient must demonstrate need. The name of every contributor will be published on CharlotteObserver.com, with the latest contributors listed daily on Page 2A of the Observer. If a contributor gives in someone’s memory or honor, we’ll publish that, too. Contributors also can remain anonymous. To donate by check: The Empty Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. To donate online: charlotteobserver.com/emptystockingfund.



Maj. Kay Lancaster of Charlotte’s Salvation Army is definitely one of Santa’s elves.

On Sunday night – just hours before the final day of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau – she was at Walmart, buying $3,000 worth of toys for hundreds of local children who had not been adopted off Angel Trees. It took three hours and multiple carts to get everything on her list.

“I got a lot of weird looks, but we were out of toys for children ages 9 to 12,” Lancaster said. “People brought in donated toys over the weekend, but it wasn’t enough. It was either buy toys or not have them for children at Christmas.”

By 11 a.m. Monday, every one of those toys had been given away, suggesting the Christmas Bureau operates by the skin of its teeth.

However, last-minute needs are anticipated and automatically covered by Observer readers who donate to the Empty Stocking Fund. The fund covers expenses for the Christmas Bureau, including buying toys for children not adopted. This year, 4,453 of the 12,200 kids in the program did not get adopted, prompting the agency to spend $140,000 on toys.

Nearly 600 families were helped Monday by dozens of volunteers from Bank of America and Wells Fargo, who bagged gifts and passed them out. This included three guys – Leung Cheung, Matt Kinser and Mark Cunningham – who agreed to stay in the rain all morning, helping parents cram large bags of toys into Civics, Corollas and Fiestas.

“I got four bikes in one tiny car,” said Kinser, laughing.

“No,” Cheung said. “It was five bikes.”

The Spokes Group promised to give away nearly 2,600 bikes in Charlotte this season, and the last 144 were won Monday by parents spinning a wheel of chance.

Among the winners was a thrilled Sherinita Feaster, who told her two girls, ages 10 and 6, that she was spending the morning at “Santa’s workshop.”

Feaster is a caregiver for the elderly, and her husband, John, is in construction. But their combined income is far short of what’s needed, she said. The couple would likely have used January’s utility and food money for gifts, had it not been for the Salvation Army, she said.

“What I want most is to wake up on Christmas morning and see the look of joy on my children’s faces when they see what is under the tree,” Feaster said.

“To see that look is to know I was successful at least once this year at something. We may not have been able to afford everything they wanted, but we made our children happy. And to make your children happy is what every parent wants to be successful at.”

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