published Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Christmas giving for kids breaking records in Bradley County

Walker Valley High School choir provided the singing Friday as the Empty Stocking Fund's final appeal for the year ended at Life Care Centers of America. The fund, started 40 years ago, is throwing a party for needy children next Saturday and will give them new toys bought with the funds.
Walker Valley High School choir provided the singing Friday as the Empty Stocking Fund's final appeal for the year ended at Life Care Centers of America. The fund, started 40 years ago, is throwing a party for needy children next Saturday and will give them new toys bought with the funds.
Photo by Randall Higgins.
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Despite economic hard times and a year of tornadoes and floods, two major Christmas giving campaigns here set records Friday.

The Empty Stocking Fund ended a 10-day radio broadcast appeal with $39,571 in cash and pledges, officials said. The goal had been to beat last year's $34,000 by a dollar.

"You did a little better than a dollar," Steve Hartline, owner of WCLE-FM Mix 104.1, told the radio audience.

That number is expected to go higher because some businesses will continue their pledge drives through next week.

The entire amount goes to buy toys for about 1,000 of the area's neediest children. Their Christmas party is Dec. 18 at George R. Stuart Elementary School.

The late Rev. M.E. Littlefield began the effort as a community Christmas party for children here 66 years ago, accepting donations of used toys for gifts.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland; his wife, Sandra; and the late Bobby Taylor launched the Empty Stocking Fund 41 years ago to raise money to buy the toys.

The registration of children is coordinated by Faith Memorial Church.

During Friday's broadcast finale, Beecher Hunter, CEO of Life Care Centers of America, also announced the company's participation in Operation Christmas Child had set a record.

This year, Hunter said, area donors packed 46,612 shoe boxes with gifts and personal-care items for children around the world. That's an 11 percent increase over last year, he said.

Considering the challenges this year, Hunter called it "miraculous."

Giving to children, locally and in other countries, should not be an either/or issue, he said.

"We need to take care of kids, wherever they are," Hunter said.

Other Christmas for children campaigns continue here, including businesswoman Brenda Lawson's annual Christmas Memories effort.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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