Updated: January 24, 2014 at 6:46 pm
It's Christmas in January for clients of 15 local health and human service agencies.
The annual Gazette-El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking Fund campaign has exceeded its $1 million goal, the foundation announced Friday.
The total raised by the charitable campaign, that ran from Nov. 24 through Jan. 17 is $1,018,866.04.
This is the seventh straight year that the community has exceeded the $1 million goal.
"Meeting and surpassing our goal of $1 million truly shows the spirit of philanthropy and compassion that continues to spreads throughout the Pikes Peak Region," William Hybl, chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation, said in a statement.
Dan Steever, publisher of the Gazette, echoed that sentiment in his statement: "With 30 years of success, this campaign has become a beacon for community service and is truly a demonstration of what collaboration can do for a community."
Those that are recipients say it is a critical part of their ability to help those in need.
Lynne Telford, president and CEO of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, notes they usually receive about $100,000 from the fund.
"It's one of the largest gifts we get every year. It's very important." She explained that Care and Share can buy $10 worth of food for every dollar donated.
"People are struggling now, especially with food stamp cuts, and we are not seeing the impact of the improved economy with those that need food. There is a lot of need."
The community donated $748,00 to the campaign. El Pomar Foundation provided $200,000, a match of $1 for every $3 the community gave, up to the $200,000. The Bruni Foundation gave $70,000, a match of $10,000 for every $100,000 that the community gives up to $70,000.
In the campaign's three decades, more than $15 million has been raised, including this campaign. When the Empty Stocking Fund started 30 years ago 27 families were helped with food, medicine, Christmas gifts and utilities. Now thousands benefit.
Each year many poignant personal stories are highlighted in The Gazette to illustrate how the nonprofit agencies' services can change lives.
Jerry Bruni, president of the Bruni Foundation, which is an Empty Stocking Fund sponsor, noted that he got involved years ago when a Gazette executive talked to him about the project.
"We thought it was important. It helps people with physical handicaps, mental disabilities, those who suffered natural disaster and those who become prisoners of substance abuse," Bruni said.
"What they need is a second chance. It's a sign of a compassionate community to give them that second chance, to help them live productive lives."
All the donations goes directly to the nonprofits. The Gazette, El Pomar Foundation, Wells Fargo and ADDSTAFF pay for administrative costs. El Pomar also provides fellows to work with the nonprofits on a variety of fundraisers. Radio and TV stations, such as Clear Channel, Cumulus and KRDO have provided complimentary advertising.
Beginning this year, nonprofits must apply every two years to receive funding in an effort to offer more groups a chance to get help through the fund, Amy Horton, program director has said.