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If you wonder what we do with your donation to the Empty Stocking Club, let me tell you: a lot of good.

Since 1918, the Wisconsin State Journal and its readers have partnered to make sure that no child is passed by at Christmastime. You generously donate money, and we buy thousands of toys to give away to poor parents in our area.

We work with social workers and community groups to get the applications out to families. We rent the space for the Toy Depot, buy the toys and run the giveaway.

It’s a simple concept, with meaningful results. I’ve had the chance to see this in action many times as a “toy helper,” and each year I leave with a story to share with my own family. It’s a gut check on all that we have.

One year, I walked a young father through the displays as he struggled over what to choose for his kids. Each child gets one gift. He needed to choose three.

We went back and forth. He asked me what I thought. We looked at the age ranges on the toys and considered all the possibilities. He apologized for how long it was taking him to decide. I told him to take his time.

I didn’t ask him if these were going to be the only toys his children would get that year. But it was obvious that these toys were going to be very important.

I left that night knowing that this organization matters to people. More to the point, your generosity matters.

This year, together we are serving 3,800 families and giving away 9,800 toys. We also provide toys to the needy at sites in Mauston and Portage, as well as church and community groups for their holiday celebrations.

The Empty Stocking Club also funds the Helping Hands program, in which children write in to tell us how they would spend $200 to help someone.

Helping Hands then provides a small grant to those causes highlighted in the children’s letters. The results of the latest effort, always poignant, are detailed in today’s Sunday Best section.

So your donation accomplishes quite a lot. There are so many stories to share from this year’s Toy Depot — of people scraping by to care for their own children and those helping to take care of someone else’s. Of people who are homeless with nothing else to give their child. And of people who found themselves back with us again after having had a few good years without help.

For 97 years, we have been an organization that makes a difference to people. And we’ve done that because of you, our readers.

Please consider donating today to keep alive this special holiday promise. Today’s newspaper contains a donation envelope for your convenience. You can also contribute online at

Or mail a check to:

Empty Stocking Club

Wisconsin State Journal

P.O. Box 8056

Madison, WI 53708

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


Managing editor/audience for the Wisconsin State Journal