The bigger the city, the smaller its heart? Not true in Charlotte.
Thanks to you, the Charlotte Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund set a new record for contributions this year: $529,942!
That’s up 42 percent over last year. And while the fund got a big boost from a single $100,000 donor, even without that generous contribution the fund grew by more than 15 percent.
More than 2,400 readers, in all, answered the call to help families struggling financially this holiday season, with most donations ranging from $1 to $100.
Some could not stop there. Stories written by the Observer’s Mark Price inspired readers to donate Christmas trees, beds, heaters, even a car.
A few toys for her children, ages 10 and 12, were all that Tanesha Garner sought when she registered for help from the Salvation Army’s Christmas Center. She explained to Price that her troubles began when her car was totaled in a wreck.
“Without a car, she lost her job as a certified nurse’s assistant,” Price wrote. “Without a job, she lost her home. Without a home, she and her two children lost their belongings.”
This week, Garner called Price. A Charlotte couple had bought her a used car (a 2010 Hyundai Elantra). She needed only to pay the insurance. She was stunned.
“I am amazed,” Garner said. “There are still good people in the world. They (the couple) are angels. I’m in awe and keep asking myself: Is this real?”
In another story, Price wrote about Elizabeth McNiel’s request for toys. In talking to her, Mark discovered that McNiel was raising two teenage sons and three grandchildren. The sons slept without beds in the family’s garage.
Soon, readers donated beds and dressers, enough for all the kids. One Charlotte woman even covered the cost of a rental truck to have the furniture moved.
“I would like to tell all the people who helped us that you have made my Christmas blessed,” McNiel said. “I don’t think you can understand the world of difference you have made.”
Christina Marks lost her job in August. A wife and a mom, Marks was the family’s chief source of income. She came to the Christmas Center because she had no money to buy gifts for her four children.
Now Marks is a cook at the Hub Bar and Grill at the Holiday Inn Charlotte-Airport. General manager Ann Sutton said she read of her need for work in the Observer and noted she was interested in attending culinary school.
“It resonated with me that she had a passion for cooking,” Sutton said. “We were hiring a full-time cook at that point, and I felt she was meant to be given an opportunity. We called her in for an interview and liked how genuine she was.”
No one who qualified for help from the Christmas Center walked away empty-handed. The Empty Stocking Fund provided gifts for more than 4,500 children, as well as more than 1,100 disabled citizens. Many of the rest of the 11,360 people helped by the center were selected from Angel Trees or assisted through other community drives.
All gifts were distributed from a sparsely decorated warehouse off South Boulevard. That included more than 1,600 bicycles donated by the Spokes Group. Because of demand and a limited supply, parents who needed a bike were asked to spin a roulette wheel for the chance to win one.
As he stood inside the center one day, Price noticed a middle-aged woman walking slower than those around her. She was crying. And she seemed to ignore people directing her to nearby stations where she could pick up toys.
Turned out, she is blind. Her 70-year-old uncle was soon back at her side, directing her. Her tears? Sheer joy. She had just won a bike for her 10-year-old daughter, Miracle.
“There was no other way I could have gotten (a bike) for my child,” she told Price.
The procession of deserving people, it seemed, was unending. How grateful we are that the same can be said for your generosity. On behalf of everyone at the Charlotte Observer, we extend our deepest thanks.
To donate online: www.charlotteobserver.com/living/helping-others/empty-stocking-fund/. Send checks to: The Empty Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 37269, Charlotte, NC 28237-7269. For questions about your donation, call 704-358-5520. For questions about helping families, call Salvation Army Donor Relations: 704-714-4725.
Total raised: $529,942.05
Others who help
The Salvation Army relies on hundreds of volunteers each year to operate its Christmas Center. Here are just some of the people and organizations helping to make that happen.
- Carolinas Healthcare adopted more than 700 names from Angel Trees. Their employees fulfilled those children’s wishes.
- Ally Bank adopted 300 names from Angel Trees. Many other corporations also adopted names in bulk.
- Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Carolinas Healthcare provided hundreds of volunteers to help staff the Christmas Center.
- The Spokes Group raised money to purchase more than 1,600 bikes.
- Two Men and a Truck helped pick up toys across the community.
- Mark Silke with Charlotte Soccer Academy (working through WCNC’s Magical Toy Drive) organized a soccer tournament and collected both toys and donations.
- Area PetSmart stores did toy drives this year that collected hundreds of stuffed animals.
- Corvette Angels is an event organized by Charlotte’s Road Runner Vettes club, with participation from other area Corvette clubs. They collected hundreds of toys.
- Radio station Power 98 held multiple toy drives giving listeners an opportunity to contribute.
- The Piedmont Kennel Club collected toys at its annual Meet the Breeds dog show.
- Area biker groups organized the “Magical Toy Ride” to benefit the center.