Empty Stocking holiday drive declared successful

WINDER -- Leaders declared Barrow County's annual Empty Stocking holiday gift drive successful, though less so than in recent years.

The drive culled a couple van loads of toys, along with $350 in cash. The numbers showed a downturn in giving over last year, which wasn't unexpected.

"It's a very tough year on everyone," said Lt. Scott Dakin, Barrow County Emergency Services spokesman. Donators "realized that even though money was tight, there were still people who didn't have anything for their children.

"They gave what they could, and for that we're thankful."

For two weeks in early December, firefighters partnered with the Community Emergency Response Team of Barrow to make the drive happen.

"(They) were out in the cold and rain receiving donations," Dakin said.

All donations this year went to the Holiday Connection, Barrow County's primary holiday assistance program.

The Holiday Connection, a volunteer-based, countywide clearinghouse, provides assistance to more than 150 families each year.

Donations jumped nearly 25 percent in 2008, officials said, meaning 600 more Barrow kids -- totaling 2,200 -- were treated to a toy-filled Christmas than the previous year.