East Texas organization is making spirits bright for kids in need

The Empty Stocking Fund

MARSHALL, TX (KSLA) - For the past 25 years, Lea McGee has made Christmas a reality for thousands of children in need across Harrison County.

McGee, a Marshall native, is the director of the Empty Stocking Fund, a program which provides Christmas presents for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have any.

“I love Christmas, this is my favorite time of the year, I love it,” said McGee.

The Empty Stocking Fund is no small operation. McGee says each year, the program delivers Christmas gifts to between 300 and 350 kids.

“There’s so many families who work minimum wage jobs and it’s just hard for them to make it,” said McGee. “It’s in my heart, I love children and I just want them to have a Merry Christmas.”

Located at 1600 S. Washington Ave. in Marshall, the walls of the Empty Stocking Fund are covered with mountains of toys, meticulously organized by a group of dedicated and selfless volunteers. The volunteers of the Empty Stocking Fund often work more than 12 hour days, sometimes standing outside the local Walmart on the weekends to collect donations with little time to rest.

“I have to remind myself, when I get so tired, this is for the children,” said McGee. “This is why I do it.”

The season of giving for the Empty Stocking Fund comes at a price. McGee said she’s missed out on countless Christmas moments with family. But, she says the perpetual exhaustion is all worth it.

“As we get older, memories are everything and I want them to have good memories,” said McGee. “I cry every time, it means everything to me.”

However, this year, McGee says donations are down substantially, which means they may not be able to help as many kids as in years past. Still, the Empty Stocking Fund still plans to provide enough Christmas gifts for more than 200 children, with dozens on a waiting list.

“They [the public] can send in a cash donation or they can collect some toys,” said McGee. “We have some things we need.”

For more information on the Empty Stocking Fund, or if you’d like to donate or sponsor a child, click here.

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