Empty Stocking Fund: Find out how you can help

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By Sharon Dooley | Daily News Contributing Writer

An injury took Brenda Telford off her feet and out of a job, placing her in a financial dilemma.

“I waited tables, and I twisted my knee really bad, and I was on crutches,” this single mother of a young teenage daughter said. “I needed help to get past that.

“I didn’t need disability,” continued the Fort Walton Beach resident. “I just needed temporary assistance. I was out of work for three weeks.”

When she received a cut-off notice for her electricity, she sought help from community resources. A call to resource phone number 211 mentioned the Salvation Army corps offices in Fort Walton Beach.

As administrators of the Empty Stocking Fund, the Salvation Army of Okaloosa and Walton counties could help Telford pay her power bill and provide other resources while she was unable to work.

“The Salvation Army paying my electric bill was huge, and I have a 13-year-old daughter and I didn’t know what I would do,” Telford said.

“It was really nice to not feel like I wasn’t being judged,” she added. “It was really embracing.”

The Salvation Army staff directed Telford to local food bank Sharing and Caring. The staff at Sharing and Caring not only provided Telford with food, but also with dog food for her little pet.

“Immediately when this happened, I did apply for food stamps,” she said. Her family also helped, although she knows she must repay their loans.

“I’m still playing catch-up,” Telford said, but she is now out of the knee brace, off crutches and working again. She found a position in construction clean-up, which puts less stress on her knee than the fast-paced food industry.

“Help is out there, and these are good people who give it,” Telford continued. “I learned that the hard way.”

Telford said that each Christmas season, she enjoys reading the Empty Stocking coverage in the Northwest Florida Daily News.

“It’s very encouraging to see that,” she said. “I’ve seen that in the paper—to see where the donations are coming from. I’ve been one of the ones who reciprocated from the Salvation Army.”

The Empty Stocking Fund serves as a community outreach, designed to assist people who face financial difficulties in Okaloosa and Walton counties. The Salvation Army of Okaloosa and Walton counties serves as the administrators of the fund, with all donations remaining in the two counties and specifically applied to vetted clients who need assistance with utility and rent bills, and with medication expenses.

Empty Stocking Fund donations can be taken to the Northwest Florida Daily News on the corner of Eglin Parkway and Hollywood Boulevard or can be mailed to NWF Daily News, P.O. Box 2949, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549. Checks should be payable to Empty Stocking Fund/NWF Daily News.

Donations may also be made by visiting www.salvationarmyflorida.org/fortwalton/empty-stocking-fund.

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