Empty Stocking Fund

‘Such beautiful hearts.’ Observer readers raise $230,000 for kids in need at Christmas

Charlotte Observer readers from uptown to upstate New York have donated more than $230,000 so far this holiday season to the newspaper’s Empty Stocking Fund to help area children in need receive items on their Christmas wish lists.

For instance, a South Charlotte church’s women’s ministry was so moved by a story about 3-year-old Nelson Moran, who has autism, that they sewed him two weighted blankets and a weighted vest. A Cotswold retiree also donated a new tablet computer filled with apps that Nelson’s therapist recommended for kids with autism.

Several readers reached out to help Maria Prosvetov and her three children, who lost their husband and father, Andre, this summer when he died suddenly of a stroke.

Keith Toohey, the owner of an Indian Land, S.C., miniature golf course called High Seas Miniature Golf, gifted the family with a free golf membership in addition to purchasing the family extra gifts. Other readers wrote the family checks to help cover their bills and sent in gift cards to help them afford to celebrate the season.

And right around Christmas, one anonymous donor wrote a check for $10,000.

Some 7,300 children received gifts this Christmas thanks to the Salvation Army’s Christmas program, which matches children in need with anonymous donors who buy the gifts.

Donors plucked children’s wish lists off angel trees in area malls and businesses. Those “angels” who went un-plucked, or whose gifts were not returned, received gifts courtesy of The Charlotte Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund. (Financial donations are accepted year-round.)

nelson w tablet.jpg
Nelson Moran, 3, gets his first look at a new tablet loaded with learning apps for children with autism. The tablet was donated by a Charlotte Observer reader who was inspired by reading an article about Nelson, who has autism. Cristina Bolling cbolling@charlotteobserver.com

Money raised by last year’s fund allowed the Salvation Army to purchase 6,056 toys and 456 gifts for low-income seniors.

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Each child also received a new backpack this year, so Empty Stocking funds were used to purchase 8,000 backpacks and 20,000 small items to stuff inside them. Children in the program range in age from infants to 12 years old.

“As a new resident to this community, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our readers. The Empty Stocking Fund blesses so many children and families across our community during the Christmas season,” said Rodney Mahone, publisher of The Charlotte Observer.

“It is an honor to be a part of this wonderful legacy of helping those in need during the holidays,” he said.

Kim McElroy with the St. Francis United Methodist Church’s “Wrapped in Love” ministry said the group of about 20 South Charlotte sewers decided to create two blankets and a vest for Nelson Moran after reading about how the 3-year-old was having trouble staying asleep at night. The ministry made 200 weighted blankets and vests for families in need this year.

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“We hope that this will help him settle and just be calm,” McElroy said.

Imelda Moran, Nelson’s mother, was moved to tears by the outpouring of help.

“As a mother, it is a blessing to know that there are people out there with such beautiful hearts,” Moran said.