The Gainesville Jaycees will be bringing Christmas joy to 490 children this year as part of the club’s Empty Stocking Fund.
That’s how many children will receive an entire outfit — including underwear, shoes and a jacket — and a toy. Each elementary school in Gainesville and Hall County gave a list of no more than 20 names to the Jaycees that school officials deem could most use the help.
Chance Jones, director of the project, said that the group is still raising funds to support the $90 spent on each child. This year is his first heading up the Empty Stocking Fund.
"It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it," Jones said. "That’s the most fun part is knowing what we’ve done for these kids. ... These children may or may not have had a Christmas without what the Jaycees and this community have provided."
The club members and others, totaling almost 70 shoppers, spent Saturday morning scouring the Gainesville Walmart for toys and clothing for the children, Jones said.
The club started the Empty Stocking Fund in 1955, but Jones admitted fundraising has been a little bit tougher for the club this year.
"We have a donor list that we like to use every year and those donors are just as generous as they are every year," he said. "But some of the individual giving is off what it normally is ... that’s why we’ve set up a raffle."
The Jaycees will be raffling off Visa gift cards and two weekend trips with hotel room already booked. First prize is a $3,500 gift card; second prize is a $1,000 gift card and a weekend in Savannah; third prize is a $500 gift card and a weekend in Beaufort, S.C. Tickets are $20 each, three for $50 or 20 for $300.
The Jaycees also accept donations, which are tax-deductible, and have been sending out letters soliciting donations.
The Gainesville Jaycees started more than 63 years ago is and open to young men between the ages of 18 and 40. Each year, the group selects a Young Man and Young Woman of the Year from the community.
The group also operates Mule Camp Market every October and sponsors a program called "Gut Check," to teach leadership and discipline to young boys.