The Valdosta Daily Times
Last year, the Empty Stocking Fund made Christmas bright for 900 children. On Tuesday and today, the generations-old toy drive will help bring Christmas joy to more than 1,200 Valdosta and Lowndes County children.
“The more money that is donated to the Empty Stocking Fund means the more children we can help at Christmas,” said Salvation Army Capt. Monica Nickum as she and about a dozen volunteers distributed the fund’s toys to hundreds of families Tuesday.
By the time distribution ends this afternoon, the Empty Stocking Fund will have helped 441 families provide toys for more than 1,200 children. Money raised this year for the fund helps children next year.
In distributing the toys, Capt. Monica Nickum has put the army in the Salvation Army. This is she and husband Capt. Guy Nickum’s fourth Christmas leading the Salvation Army in Valdosta. Monica Nickum runs the toy distribution with military precision.
To avoid a stampede of registered adult recipients arriving at the same time to pick up toys for their children, the Salvation Army assigns an appointment time for each family. Every six minutes, a volunteer calls in the next set of appointments. Recipients can arrive late but they will not be admitted if they arrive early.
Admitting a handful of people at a time into the building, Nickum double checks with each registered recipient. She writes a ticket for each person. The ticket is handed to a volunteer who walks behind a partition to a warehouse filled with the number-taped grid of bundled toys. The volunteer finds the bundle that corresponds with the ticket and carries it to the adult recipient, who signs the ticket and takes the toys home for children at Christmas.
Monica Nickum has another strict rule. She insists that adults do not bring their children to the toy pick-up. Partly so the child can enjoy the surprise of the gifts on Christmas morning and also to hopefully deter the children from growing up thinking they are not responsible for providing their children with Christmas presents. So they will not come to adulthood expecting someone to provide them with Christmas presents in the future.
Under Nickum’s supervision, families are only allowed to register children for the Empty Stocking Fund for three consecutive years.
For decades, the Empty Stocking Fund has been ensuring that no Valdosta or Lowndes County youngsters awake Christmas morning to an empty stocking.
The Valdosta Daily Times started the Empty Stocking Fund in the mid -20th century. The Times partners with the Salvation Army and Guardian Bank in presenting the Empty Stocking Fund campaign each year.
Several weeks ago, families registered their children for the fund. Children provide a wish list of toys. After ensuring the registered families are not registered for Christmas with other area organizations, Nickum buys specific items from each child’s list.
This past Saturday, when thousands of bikers delivered toys for the Empty Stocking Fund at Five Points, Nickum and her volunteers had these toys distributed within a couple of hours to all of the children.
From 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday, Nickum and volunteers from Highland Academy senior class, Toys R Us and Moody Air Force Base prepared everything for pick up this week.