Jaycees members, along with their significant others, gathered at 6 a.m. Dec. 1 at the Gainesville Wal-Mart to do the shopping for students from all but three Hall County elementary schools.
Justin Green, coordinator of the Empty Stocking Fund, said the purpose of the shopping trip is to get essentials, such as clothes and shoes. They then round out the gifts with toys and wrapping paper, depending on the age of the child and how much the group has to spend.
They were also assisted by Wal-Mart, which donated more than 450 pairs of shoes and had three registers open strictly for Jaycees members to get the toys through quickly. Having more than 400 children to buy for was a positive, Green said.
"It can go all the way up to 500, this year we have a little bit less, which is a good thing," he said. "It’s a good direction as far as needy individuals."
A collector in the area has also donated about $18,000 worth of action figures and themed toys to the cause as well, said Blair Marshall, fundraising coordinator for the Empty Stocking Fund.
Today, Jaycees members will be visiting the schools with cargo vans and trucks to deliver the gifts to counselors at the schools, Green said. The remaining toys will be organized in four trucks and delivered to Toys for Tots, CASA, Gainesville firefighters’ Santa Fund and one organization to be named at a later date.
"It’s definitely what the true spirit of the season is," Marshall said. "It’s just about helping those who are less fortunate. That’s what it is all about for us. It just gives you a good, warm, happy feeling inside that you can do that for someone else."
The Jaycees are also selling raffle tickets to benefit the general fund. Tickets are $50, and can be purchased from members.