Applications for Empty Stocking Fund now open

Published 9:00 am Saturday, October 16, 2021

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LaGrange Personal Aid is accepting applications for the Troup County Empty Stocking Fund until Thanksgiving.

The fund benefited over 500 families in Troup County last year, and so far, as COVID-19 continues to affect families in the community, the number of applicants this year has the potential to reach that number again.

“Right now, we’re seeing quite a steady amount [of applicants], but we’re not seeing COVID slowing down,” said Paul Stedman, who serves as the LaGrange Personal Aid executive director and oversees the Stocking Fund.  “COVID is still out there.”

LaGrange Personal Aid also helps individuals in the community with personal aspects such as mortgages and utilities, cases of which have been constant during the pandemic, he said.

The Empty Stocking Fund, which is assisted by organizations like United Way of West Georgia and Toys for Tots, helps families provide a Christmas for children or grandchildren from newborns to 10-years-old. Families must live in Troup County to benefit from the program. Those living in Hogansville are exempt from assistance due to Hogansville having its own Empty Stocking Fund, Stedman said. Traditionally, parents would get to choose the gifts for their children from the shelves of purchased gifts from the LaGrange Personal Aid’s office.  With COVID, however, parents have had to give specific details on what their children would like for the holiday and staff would select the gifts and load them into the parents’ cars. While this process has eliminated the possibility of COVID-contact, it has also taken away the personal touch this program gives to its recipients.

“I hate to have to do that, it’s so impersonal to me,” Stedman. “I hope COVID will go away by next year ,so that we can go back to doing it the way we did before.”

However, the effort from the community has kept the program going despite the pandemic, Stedman noted. LaGrange Personal Aid begins gathering toys for the fund around February and stores them in its conference room. By October, that room is packed.

“We have to have our meetings in the hallway,” Stedman joked. “[Applicants] will be getting quite a few toys.”

When applying for the Empty Stocking Fund, applicants will need to bring proof of a monthly check, money or work pay, children’s birth certificates, a piece of mail that they have received in the last 30 days that will confirm their address, a Georgia picture ID, and custody papers if they are not the child’s parent.

In-office application hours are from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Fridays at the LaGrange Personal Aid office at 300 Bull St.

To apply by phone, call (706) 882-9291.