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December 6 , 2004
Library employees deliver for charity
BY Eric Rangus
"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,” reads the famous passage from the poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Unfortunately, for many underprivileged children in metro Atlanta, come the holidays St. Nicholas has other things to do than pay attention to their stockings.
But sometimes St. Nicholas can visit in unexpected and very special ways. Like through the efforts of staff employees in Woodruff Library, who for the last five years have stuffed stockings for a Salvation Army program that distributes them to needy area children and elders at christmas time.
“I think a lot of people want to do things like this at this time of year, but they just don’t know where to start,” said Belinda Smith, who coordinates the program. “So if you offer them something easy and fun, they will certainly do it.”
Now in its fifth year, the stocking project is reaching more people than ever as library employees, including staff from the Information Technology Division (ITD), will fill a record 137 stockings.
“We have bags of donations left because we ran out of stockings, but that’s a good thing,” said Tricia Goddard, business analyst in ITD. Goddard distributes stockings from Smith to ITD employees in the library. She said the extra gifts would be given to the Salvation Army for distribution as they see fit.
After Smith, an interlibrary loan specialist, sent out an invitation e-mail in late October, anyone interested picked up his or her stocking allotment from her desk. The filled stockings were due back on Dec. 6, and this week Smith will deliver them to the Salvation Army warehouse in the West End district.
Some staff fill stockings individually; others take them home and invite family members to help and some departments hold stocking-stuffing parties during lunch hour.
Sarah Ward has been working in interlibrary loan for only a few months and is participating in the stocking program for the first time. She and several friends went shopping just before Thanksgiving to buy their gifts.
“It only cost us about $10 each,” said Ward, a 2003 graduate of Emory College, “and it was a lot of fun to do.”
Each stocking contains about 10–12 items and is given to needy children between the ages of six months and 12 years. They contain items as wide ranging as hair barrettes, yo-yos, computer games and compact discs.
“I always like to put in a coloring book and crayons,” Smith said. “That was one of my favorite toys growing up.” Activity pads, notepads, keychains, pencils and small clothing items like socks or gloves are some of Smith’s favorites, as well. For elder stocking recipients, lotion, soaps, combs, brushes and playing cards are among the most popular stocking stuffers.
Smith has filled stockings for charity for many years on her own and through other social groups. In 1997 she invited several co-workers from an administrative assistants working group to take part, which they did for two years. The effort was small—just 5 to 10 stockings were filled—but meaningful.
After the working group disbanded in 1999 and no stockings were stuffed in the library that December, Smith fielded several questions about bringing it back. She did so in a big way.
In October 2000, she e-mailed library staff inviting volunteers to stuff stockings. The response was excellent, and 56 stockings were delivered to the Salvation Army. The next three years saw a remarkable increase as around 125 stockings were filled each year from 2001–03. This year, the library filled about a dozen more.
“We need this sort of generosity every year,” said Ruby Baxter, who coordinates the Stocking and Doll Program for the Salvation Army. She added that the Salvation Army will distribute approximately 8,000 stockings this year to needy children and elders in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
In addition to the stockings, families will receive clothing, two toys for each child, and food vouchers. The dolls mentioned in the program title can be stuffed animals or traditional dolls such as Barbies.
Between Dec. 18–22, the packages are distributed to parents and caregivers who then give the stockings to the children. They never see where the presents originate.
Except for final delivery, the library stocking project is complete. But Baxter said members of the Emory community can still fill Salvation Army stockings on their own. For more information, contact Baxter at
678-418-4667. Filled stockings are due at the warehouse Dec. 18.
Smith’s efforts over the past few years have not gone unnoticed by her co-workers. Earlier this year she received the library’s “Community Building Award,” a self-explanatory honor that recognized her selfless attitude.
“I was blown away,” Smith said, reflecting on the award. “I never dreamed in a million years something like that would happen.” She is, however, not content with sitting back and basking in her newfound notoriety. Her goal is to one day fill 170 stockings—one for every library employee.
“But if it goes over that,” Smith said, “that would be fine, too.”