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Empty Stocking Club Toy Depot

The Toy Depot of the Wisconsin State Journal's Empty Stocking Club is held each year at Alliant Energy Center.

The Wisconsin State Journal and its readers have partnered for nearly 100 years to brighten the holidays for the area’s needy children through the Empty Stocking Club.

Today, we launch our annual fund drive to do it again.

The club’s goal has always been the same: Make sure children receive at least one nice gift at Christmastime. With your help, we’ve managed to keep that commitment for decades.

Last year, the Empty Stocking Club served 4,953 families with 12,387 children — numbers that typically grow each year.

The fund drive is a cherished tradition for our readers and for State Journal staff. The Empty Stocking Club got its start in 1918 when editors and their wives (yes, that’s the way the newsroom was back then) collected used toys and fixed them up with the help of Madison firefighters.

Editors at the time recognized some serious needs in their city. World War I had just ended, and the world was grappling with an influenza pandemic. Some families, especially those who may have lost a parent to war or flu, were struggling.

The State Journal sought contributions in a story on its front page on Nov. 29, 1918, warning that there would be “aching hearts and tear-filled eyes unless we who are more fortunate become volunteer Santa Clauses.”

“C’mon be a Good Fellow: send in your name as an Empty Stocking Club contributor,” it read.

We still print the names of every single donor in the newspaper, as a way to reflect our community’s depth of generosity and as a small token of our thanks. And we still see significant needs in our community, 97 years after we put out that call to help.

The toys now are new, and parents pick out just what they think their child will love at a toy depot that looks much like the aisles of a retail store. But the sentiment is the same it’s always been.

With your help, the State Journal will honor this tradition for many years to come.

Today’s newspaper contains a donation envelope for your convenience. You can also contribute online at emptystockingclub.com. Or mail a check to: Empty Stocking Club, Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8056, Madison, WI 53708.

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• Empty Stocking Club gifts top $7,000. B2

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Managing editor/audience for the Wisconsin State Journal