Putting in a Christmas wish that donations will pour in, Jim “Muggins” Bennett held his 32nd annual “Tri-City Empty Stocking” auction on the campus of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College on Monday.
Knowing the economy is bad at this time, Bennett said more and more people in the county need help this Christmas season.
Continuing this fund for the less fortunate for the past 32 years, Bennett said he does this because he has a heart for the poor. He said he grew up extremely poor and has not forgotten how he felt to see other children with toys at Christmas while he had none.
Bennett said he can still remember seeing other families with a Christmas ham, while his family was lucky to have a can of beans to eat.
“I think a lot of people forget just how blessed they are,” said Bennett. “If you own a home and have something to eat every day, you are luckier than most people right here in Harlan County.”
“There are children who can’t wait to go to school so they can get a meal to eat,” he said. “Maybe their parents have lost their jobs and money is tight. It could be the electric bill or the rent will have to come first and there is nothing left for toys or a ham for Christmas. That’s why I do this every year and that’s why I ask those who have to share their blessings with others.”
Bennett said, “It doesn’t have to be much, you’d be surprised what just $20 will buy. The people of Harlan County have always been generous when I have asked for their help, and I’m depending on that again this year.”
Bennett prepares 600 baskets, weighing approximately 110 pounds each and includes sacks of potatoes, oranges, apples, ham, canned food and so much more. He said he just can’t bring himself to cut back because the gifts mean so much to those who are having a hard time during Christmas.
“I’ve been praying with my friend, George Lewis, every day that hearts will be touched and they will feel the spirit of Christmas, which is giving and helping others who are unable to help themselves during this Christmas season,” he said.
With tears in his eyes, Bennett said he feels blessed to have helped thousands of families throughout the 32 years he has held his “Empty Stocking” event. Being able to relate to the less fortunate, he said has helped him keep going year after year.
“I know what it’s like to have been hungry,” said Bennett. “I never want to see a child or an adult go hungry or not have a toy for Christmas. I may be a short man, but I have a big heart. I hope you will find it in your heart to help this year.”
Delivery begins on Dec. 15, visiting families in the Tri-Cities area, Blair, Partridge and into Letcher County. He also sends a few baskets to the Harlan area.
“We are now taking applications for baskets, which began on Dec. 3 and will run through Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. until noon and 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. at the Access Cable TV office on Kingdom Come Road in Cumberland,” said Bennett. “If anyone has any questions, they may contact me at 606-589-5310.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com