The Henry F. Selcer Memorial Empty Stocking Fund made dreams come true once again, gifting nearly 300 children in 115 Harrison County families with Christmas presents.

Families, as a whole, were also blessed this year as each family received a food box from Mission Marshall while picking up presents.

“We were excited to team up with Mission Marshall who gave one or two food boxes to each of our families,” said Lea McGee, Empty Stocking Fund director.

“I think our families were surprised to receive food along with their Christmas gifts,” she said. “It was a blessing to all.”

McGee said she was worried about the success of the charity this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Donors and sponsors graciously pulled through.

“As worried as I was about this crazy 2020, it actually turned out really well,” said McGee. “Our cash donations were down but our donations of toys and sponsoring of angels was up.”

“I saw that those who had been blessed throughout this year were willing to give,” she said. “I feel like this 2020 was a wakeup call to so many! The time that we had at home, spending the time with our families, working from home, etcetera, helped so many realize what is really important in our lives.”

Customers at Walmart were very supportive, too, as they generously donated to the Empty Stocking drop box located throughout the season outside the store.

“Our time at Walmart where people could buy in the store then donate to us as they left the store was remarkable,” said McGee. “We had families bringing out buggies of toys. So many, many people were willing to pick up a toy, coat, etcetera, for a little one was unbelievable.”

McGee thanks the community immensely for the goodwill, especially through this challenging year.

“I am so very proud of our community and how willing they are to help those whose year has not been a good one,” said McGee. “I pray that the angels and their families realize how much our community did to help them have a special Christmas.”

This is the 106th season for the Empty Stocking Fund, which was founded back in 1914 to provide toys and gifts to underprivileged children in the county for Christmas. The charity was started by Elizabeth Scully, a grocer’s daughter, after noticing how many families came in the store in need of assistance.

The program was later expanded by Father Henry F. Selcer, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, who began spearheading it after Scully. Following Selcer, Ora McGee, a parishioner who had gotten involved and assisted Selcer up to his death, took the reins, vowing to never let the Empty Stocking Fund die.

“Father Selcer was devoted to the mission of the Empty Stocking Fund and found various ways to celebrate Christmas each year,” the charity’s history on its Facebook page states. “He was known to host parties at the Paramount Theater in downtown Marshall, where he would pass out gifts to the children and give food baskets to the families. He was involved until his death in 1956, where at his bed side, Mrs. Ora McGee, promised Father Selcer that she would never let Empty Stocking die. She made good on her promise by heading up the project until she was in her late 80s.”

It was at that point, in 1985, when current director Lea McGee, who was Ora McGee’s granddaughter-in-law, joined in the efforts.

Lea McGee has led the drive for about 20 years now. It’s been a tradition that she’s been honored to be a part of.

Families needing assistance are invited to submit an application during the holiday season. One hundred percent of donations go towards the project, fulfilling each child’s need, want and wish from the child’s Christmas list.

“I am grateful to so many who stepped up to help Empty Stocking Fund provide for the children of Harrison County,” said McGee. “Thank you to all of the volunteers who worked long hours daily to put everything together.”

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