Empty Stocking Club

The giving season is upon us once again and, once again, that means Toys for Tots volunteers are readying boxes and bags of gifts in the basement of the City Hall Annex for needy area youngsters.

It’s a heartfelt chore, and a Racine tradition that dates back to 1929, when a group of Racine Boy Scouts decided to do a good deed for the holiday with the simple goal of making sure no boy or girl awoke on Christmas morning without finding at least one gift under the tree.

That has been the heart of the tradition to this day. The Scouts’ good deed grew over time and their cause was taken up by the Good Fellers, a group of civic-minded people who coordinated the operation and began an annual drive — the Empty Stocking Club — to raise donations to sustain it.

For many years, the Toys for Tots effort was headed up by longtime Journal Times columnist Tex Reynolds, then for more than 30 years by former Journal Times Circulation Director Don Karkow.

Former Caledonia Fire Chief Pete Waselchuk now oversees Toys for Tots, coordinating the year-round collection of new and gently used toys, dolls, bikes, game boards and hundreds of other items and supervising the more than 130 volunteers who repair and package the donated toys until they’re fit for distribution.

Waselchuk said last week that the preparations for the toy distribution, which begins Tuesday, are moving right along — although they could always use some volunteers to help out. “Just come on down on Monday, we’d be happy to have them,” he said. “All they have to do is show up and we’ll put them to work.”

Toy distribution from the basement of the City Hall Annex begins on Tuesday; Monday will be a busy day for volunteers as they put together the gift packages to have everything ready. Registration for the toy distribution will continue through Tuesday, Dec. 5, and the distribution itself will run until Saturday, Dec. 9.

Waselchuk said that by last week, 450 families had already signed up for the toy distribution; he expected that to climb to about 600 families. More than 1,200 area children are already registered and that, too, should go higher.

This is where you come in.

Throughout the past 80-plus years, Toys for Tots has been supported by the generous contributions of Journal Times readers to the Empty Stocking Club. Next Sunday (Dec. 3) and on Dec. 10 and Dec. 14, there will be an Empty Stocking Club envelope in your newspaper.

Donate what you can, knowing that it will help put a smile on the faces of youngsters all across Racine County on Christmas morning. The Journal Times will publish the names of donors as the Empty Stocking Club list grows; you also may choose to make your donation anonymously.

Help make the holidays bright for area boys and girls. It will gladden your heart as well.

Merry Christmas.

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