Empty Stocking Fund

During a rough family transition, donors help bring joy to two boys at Christmas

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Join the Charlotte Observer and help families in need this holiday season by giving to the Empty Stocking Fund.
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Join the Charlotte Observer and help families in need this holiday season by giving to the Empty Stocking Fund.

Keianna Sims can’t contain her excitement when she talks about her kids: 3-year-old Kody, who lights up the room when he walks into his Head Start class, and 5-month-old Kaison, whom she calls her “conversation piece” because of how he charms strangers everywhere he goes.

But this year has been a challenging one for Sims and her boys.

Keianna Sims recently separated from Kody and Kaison’s dad, and she and the boys are now staying with Keianna’s family while she searches for a job and a place of their own. There are seven people and a dog living in the three-bedroom, two-bath home in west Charlotte, so Keianna sleeps in the living room.

Now that Kaison is getting older and Keianna Sims feels better about leaving him in daycare, she’s starting to apply for the kinds of jobs she’s held in the past, as a patient-care aide or doing health screenings.

But until she lands that job, money is tight. So with Christmas coming, she applied for the Salvation Army’s Christmas program so the boys would have toys under the tree on Christmas morning.

This year, Kody and Kaison are among about 7,300 children who are registered to receive toys and clothes through the Salvation Army’s Christmas program, which matches children in need with anonymous donors who buy the gifts. Some 1,400 senior citizens will also receive gifts this Christmas.

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In cases where donors don’t come forward, Charlotte Observer readers cover the expense by giving to the Empty Stocking Fund. Money raised by last year’s Empty Stocking Fund allowed the Salvation Army to purchase 6,056 toys and 456 gifts for low-income seniors.

Each child will also receive a new backpack this year, so Empty Stocking funds were used to purchase 8,000 backpacks and 20,000 small items to stuff in them.

Children in the program range in age from infants to 12 years old.

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Kaison (left) and Kody Sims will get toys this Christmas thanks to the Salvation Army Christmas program. Courtesy of Keianna Sims

Keianna says she’s grateful that donors are spending their time and money to provide Christmas gifts for her children.

“It’s really a blessing,” she says.

Kody is obsessed with firetrucks. He will stop anything he’s doing once he hears those sirens,” his mom says. “When he sees a firetruck, his whole world lights up.”

And although he’s just 3, his concern for others takes Keianna Sims’ breath away.

If someone offers him something to eat, he always asks if his mom can have some, too. “He’s always concerned about other people,” she says.

Kaison, at just 5 months, already knows how to win a room with his laughs and giggles, Keianna Sims says. “I thank God for him all the time,” she says.

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Keianna says that although this year has brought its share of pain, “I can honestly say that everything I went through was a blessing in disguise.”

“I can’t really complain because I know there are always people that are worse off than me,” she says. “I’m really blessed to have the good children I have.”