Autumn Betit, 7, looks for a coat at the Reformer Christmas Stocking.(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Autumn Betit, 7, looks for a coat at the Reformer Christmas Stocking. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Wednesday January 2, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- In spite of a dip in the number of donors, the Reformer Christmas Stocking again is on the verge of topping its $90,000 annual goal.

It will be the sixth straight year that the clothing drive for kids in need has surpassed that total. Organizers were reporting $89,507.88 in donations earlier this week.

"We just need a small boost," said Pat Smith, a member of the stocking committee.

The Christmas Stocking now is in its 76th year. Children in Windham County and in Hinsdale and Chesterfield, N.H., receive free winter outerwear including coats, gloves, hats and boots.

This year, the program served 1,364 children from 612 families.

But those who closely monitor the program during the holiday season also have noted another number: So far, there have been 806 donors.

By comparison, there were 895 stocking donors as of Dec. 31, 2011. And the numbers were even higher in two previous years: There were 934 donors as of the last day of 2010 and 959 the year prior.

Smith speculates that this year's decline may be due to economic concerns.

Betty Elwell, the stocking committee's chairwoman, wasn't sure what to make of the reduction in donors.

"I do know there are a great many needs in the community, and people make choices as to where they give their dollars," Elwell said.

Nonetheless, the stocking program is poised -- with another $492.12 -- to again reach the $90,000 mark, which is where the annual goal has been set since 2008.

Smith said it appears that larger donations were more common this year. But she also issued a reminder that every donation -- no matter the size -- is helpful.

"They may not think they can make a difference, but they can," she said.

Elwell said the stocking program -- regardless of fluctuations in the number of donors -- is "very, very blessed" to be part of a generous community.

"None of this could happen year after year without people really supporting it and really working for it," she said. "And people trust in the work of the Christmas Stocking."

Organizers accept donations year-round, but this season's big push for donors is set to end in just a few weeks. By this time last year, the $90,000 mark already had been reached.

In 2009, stocking administrators had to wait until Jan. 11 before meeting their goal.

"That was the latest we'd ever reached it," Smith said.

Of course, $90,000 is a goal -- not a cutoff. Last season's final tally was $94,540, and organizers say they always put any additional funds to good use.

"Any money over the goal is used to buy more clothes," Smith said.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.