Time to fill the Empty Stocking is running short

December 16, 2018

An anonymous donor is challenging Odessans to help the needy this Christmas and raise $30,000 by Tuesday and he will match it with another $30,000 to meet this year’s $100,000 Empty Stocking Fund goal.

The Empty Stocking Fund on Friday sat at $40,000. The donor just asked that the Salvation Army keep sharing the gospel of Jesus while challenging other Odessans to donate in time to help needy Odessans through the annual fundraising effort between the Salvation Army and the Odessa American.

OA Editor Laura Dennis thanked the donor and said the donation means the world to those who are in need this holiday. Funds from the annual event go to a holiday meal and small gifts for children and seniors.

This is the 24th year for the Empty Stocking, which has raised more than $1.8 million during that time.

The annual event brings out the Santa in many people, Dennis said, of the anonymous donor and others helping the Fund.

A good example is Odessa Dr. Gregory Shipkey, who experienced hardships during the holidays as a child.

The emergency medicine specialist at Medical Center Hospital is now in a position to assist people in need through monetary donations.

Shipkey made a pair of donations that total $3,550 to the Empty Stocking Fund, which is a fundraising effort between the Odessa American and The Salvation Army that brings a holiday meal and small gifts to needy families in Odessa.

“It makes me feel better than they might feel,” Shipkey said. “To know that one day out of the year, a kid is going to have something good to open on Christmas. It brings me every bit of joy that it’s going to bring them.”

The Empty Stocking Fund was created in 1995 by the Odessa American and has raised more than $1.8 million. This is the 24th year of the Empty Stocking Fund and has a goal of $100,000. The funds for the campaign will benefit children 13 and under and senior citizens. This year’s event should help more than 350 families and 1,000 children.

As of today, the Empty Stocking Fund has raised $40,000, but the fundraiser accepts donations until Tuesday, which is when the gifts and food baskets are distributed at the Salvation Army to those who are signed up. Donations that come in will go toward the $30,000 match challenge.

“There are a lot of people out there struggling, even with two to three jobs,” Odessa Salvation Army Lt. Clara Gomez said. “They are just regular civilians that are just trying to work and unfortunately they need help. Help around the holiday season is always busier than the rest of the year, because there are a lot of unexpected things that happen that we can’t control. We’ve definitely seen the need of continuously helping people.”

Odessa Salvation Army Lt. Juan Gomez, the husband of Clara Gomez, said the fundraiser strikes a chord with his family.

Juan and Clara Gomez were both beneficiaries of The Salvation Army as children. He knows somewhere down the line there’s a man, woman or child that’s going to be the next person to step up and contribute to The Salvation Army.

“When I was younger, I was on the other side of the line receiving toys and needing food through the food pantry,” Juan Gomez said. “Now I get to distribute toys and pass out food. It’s fantastic seeing it come full circle.”

Shipkey said this is the first year that he has donated to the Empty Stocking Fund.

He said he plans to maintain his contributions in the future.

“I was asked to be on The Salvation Army board this year and I’m kind of embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of all this,” Shipkey said. “But now that I’m aware, this will be part of my yearly giving.”

Clara Gomez said the Salvation Army has received a range of large and small donations. She is appreciative of every donation, especially when it’s submitted by the elderly who are typically on fixed incomes.

One of the most unique donations happened Tuesday when a citizen brought in about 15 pounds of change in a plastic grocery bag.

“A guy saves his change all year, so he can support the Empty Stocking Fund,” Juan Gomez said. “It’s coins on coins. He joked around with me when I asked him if he wanted a receipt he goes, ‘no, if my wife knows, she’ll stop giving me change.’ Things like this are fascinating.”

Whether the Empty Stocking Fund reaches its goal or not, Clara Gomez said The Salvation Army will ensure the proper amount of food and presents are purchased for needy families.

“If we reach our goal, great, but if not, we will make due,” Clara Gomez said. “We just want to see that every kid has a great Christmas and we able to help those in need.”

Dennis said AIM Media Texas, the parent company of the Odessa American, donated $2,000 and is asking other Odessa businesses to support the cause.

“All the money raised stays in Odessa and goes to those who are truly in need,” Dennis said. “We are so happy to partner with the good folks at the Salvation Army each year to help meet those needs.”

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