The Empty Stocking Club really shines on Christmas Day.

That’s because there are thousands of children in the Madison area who are waking up today with a present under the tree from you.

Since 1918, the State Journal and its readers have partnered to make sure that no child gets overlooked at Christmastime.

Each year, your generous donations make it possible for us to provide poor children with at least one nice gift.

This year, we served 9,800 children and 3,800 families.

Parents came to our Toy Depot, held Dec. 15 and 16 at the Alliant Energy Center, where they hand-picked a gift that was just right for each of their children.

For 97 years, the Empty Stocking Club has been a cherished tradition. It started with State Journal staff distributing used toys. Back then, kids got a refurbished toy and a pound of candy.

In those early years, before the advent of public assistance, sometimes the Empty Stocking Club also helped families with necessities, including clothing, food and coal.

It was all done with the help of readers’ donations, as it is now, although these days we stick to new toys.

Early on, in an appeal to readers on Dec. 8, 1919, for instance, the State Journal lamented the fact that in many poor households, there would be “no smiles or joyous chatter” on Christmas Day without their help.

“More than ever before does the Christmas of 1919 need the backing of The Empty Stocking Club, for this year the prices of food stuffs and clothing have advanced tremendously. There will be more homes this year where Christmas will mean nothing but another drab day,” the story said.

The Empty Stocking Club has always managed to keep its Christmas promise — even in times of economic hardship and war — because of your generosity. It would not be possible without you, our readers.

Merry Christmas, and thank you.

Franklin is managing editor/audience of the Wisconsin State Journal and a member of the Empty Stocking board.

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Managing editor/audience for the Wisconsin State Journal