Ruritans to help 575 kids this holiday season

John Gaunt, left, treasurer of the Empty Stocking Fund, pulls out some ribbon while Barbara Orlando, center, member of the Maur-Brook Olive Ruritan Club, and Dennis Morris, right, Zone Four governor of area Ruritan clubs and coordinator of the Empty Stocking Fund, wrap a bundle of socks inside the Maur-Brook Olive Ruritan Club headquarters in Mount Olive recently. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – The Shenandoah Ruritan Club looks to make Christmas special for 575 children in need through the Empty Stocking campaign.

Dennis Morris, Zone 4 governor of the Shenandoah Ruritan Club, said the eight clubs in Shenandoah County are out shopping for Christmas presents for 575 children through their annual Empty Stocking campaign fund.

This is the 31st year the club has held the Empty Stocking campaign to help children in need. They collect donations year-round to purchase toys and clothing for Shenandoah County kids. He said this year’s fundraising goal is $34,000, which is slightly more than last year’s goal of $33,000.

John Gaunt, treasurer of the Shenandoah County Ruritan Empty Stocking fund, said they spend $50 per child age 3 and younger and about $70 for children 4 to 12 years old.

Gaunt said the Ruritans work with the Department of Social Services, which supplies a list of children who would go without Christmas gifts if not for the club. Social Services asks parents and guardians of the children what they want for Christmas, which often features toys and clothing, and they give this list to the Ruritans.

For a multi-child household, one Ruritan volunteer will purchase gifts for the entire family in order to balance the gifts between toys and clothing for each child, coordinating gifts to work together and allow the kids to play together.

The Ruritans also receive information on each child’s age, gender and clothing size so they can buy appropriate gifts. Families often ask for clothing, which they sometimes can’t afford to buy for their children.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Gaunt said.

He said his volunteers can spend hours shopping for a child, envisioning what would make the perfect gift, and that it’s easy to get emotionally attached, even to children they’ve never met.

The volunteers are dedicated to making this a great holiday for children in need and providing that personal touch, Morris agreed.

“We do all the buying, all the wrapping, all the delivering,” Morris said. “It’s a feel-good program,” for the club and the community.

Gaunt said they have already started shopping and will deliver gifts Dec. 5 at the Woodstock Moose Club, but said they collect donations throughout the year to purchase gifts for the following Christmas season.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com.


Contributions can be mailed to:

Ruritan Empty Stocking
P.O. BOX 411
Strasburg, VA 22657