The Christmas Fund is pretty impressive by the numbers: 1,700 stockings of toys, games, and puzzles delivered to children this year; 5,085 food baskets distributed to families; and 103 years of service to the community. But the project isn’t about the numbers, it’s about the people.

Aimed at helping those facing poverty or those in need of a little more help due to unseen circumstance, The Journal Star’s annual Christmas Fund provides help to families in need during the holiday season. All you have to do is ask. There’s no income qualifications, as such information can leave out details that make a difference in whether a parent can buy presents that year, like the sudden loss of a job or medical bills.

Assignment editor and political reporter for The Journal Star, Chris Kaergard, works closely with the project and explains the project receives a large volume of letters each year and no family is turned away. “Some of the letters we receive are written by social workers or other aides on behalf of those who can’t write themselves; others come from family members asking for help for relatives in need; still more come from children of families,” Kaergard said.

Kaergard works alongside Phil Jordan of The Journal Star’s marketing and promotions team to ensure the project operates smoothly from beginning to end. “Phil coordinates the operations of the fund itself — fundraising, advertising, logistics of gift delivery, events — along with a board of individuals from departments across the newspaper,” Kaergard said. “I begin work in October of every year arranging the publication order and assigning reporters to story run dates, and coordinate details with Phil to ensure we’re able to cover the packing, staging and delivery of the food baskets, as well as the party where stockings are given out to kids, and our associated Journal Star Christmas Sing that has been going on for 68 years for community caroling.”

As Kaergard mentions, the project is truly a newsroom wide effort. Beginning on Thanksgiving, reporters feature stories on recipients and interesting donors in the paper four days a week through New Year’s Eve. Reporters have access to the letters as they arrive throughout November and December and are responsible for writing one or two stories. “We urge them to take different approaches as often as possible with stories to keep them fresh throughout the season. Several times a year, reporters will strike a chord with stories in the community and people will reach out to us wanting to help an individual family that has been featured,” Kaergard said.

“This year one such story by Dave Eminian resulted in a car full of gifts being brought to a family whose teen daughter wrote in describing the needs of her parents and siblings. The local museum board was so moved by the teen’s wish to go to a simple movie and see exhibits that they donated a family pass to them as well as movie tickets, and will be providing a family museum pass each year to a needy family in the future.”

For more information on the project, or to help The Journal Star reach its $165,000 goal for 2015, visit The Christmas Fund’s homepage.

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