Every year, United Way of St. Johns County takes in donations for The Empty Stocking Fund. The fund has a simple but beautiful impetus – no one should have to dread the holidays. We all know the stress that this time of year can bring, whether that be family gatherings or a busy season at work or (sometimes most of all) gift giving. Many of us will never know the heartbreak, though, of feeling unable financially to give your children a magical holiday. They see the movies and the ads and the piles of presents that paint a picture of what the holidays should be, but many children will never experience that. That’s where The Empty Stocking Fund comes in. Many families in St. Johns County have to choose between putting presents under the tree and keeping the lights on. The Empty Stocking Fund empowers parents and guardians of children by providing them with an opportunity to give their children the gift of a special holiday season. Donations go to food, clothing, and toys for these families.
The people that The Empty Stocking Fund benefits are members of our local community, so as we move closer to the holiday season, we wanted to share with you their stories in their own words. Even though these stories are anonymous, they can help you see the real-world impact of even the smallest of donations.
“My children and I recently moved out of my mother’s home. My paycheck only allows me to pay my monthly rent and bills, not leaving much for anything else. Unfortunately, I don’t meet the requirements for government assistance, so I won’t have much money to even buy Christmas and may be forced to eat dinner with family. This will be me and my daughters’ first Christmas in our new home, and I would like it to be joyous. My oldest daughter is a senior, so this will be her last year at home for the holidays before she goes off to college or the military, and I want it to be a Christmas that she will always remember. My children understand that Christmas may be a little short for gifts this year, but whatever assistance I may receive will be better than nothing.”
“I have just gotten custody of my 2 grandchildren 5 months ago. Their father is deceased, and their mother is not in the picture (by her choice not ours). I am not working due to my sickness. Anything would help out for my grandchildren to have a nice Christmas this year.”
“I’ve been on short term disability two times this year, and my family is going without one full paycheck of mine, and I only got $100 paycheck today. We haven’t paid rent for November yet due to this. We will not be able to have Thanksgiving dinner let alone Christmas dinner or get any gifts for our 11-year-old honor student 6th grader. He’s such a good boy despite having the situation we’re in. In February this year, my husband – his dad – had hip replacement surgery, and we’ve not been able to catch up our bills because I have degenerative spine disease. I had a nerve stimulator put in to help relieve the pain from my two neck fusions, but it hasn’t worked as good as it should. I have a herniated disk now at L3-4 and can’t go back to work until I have surgery to heal me.”
To learn more about The Empty Stocking Fund or to donate, visit www.unitedway-sjc.org/emptystocking.