By BRIAN GRAVES
Friday morning was cold and gray, but the hearts of Cleveland and Bradley County proved to be warm with compassion and generosity.WCLE wrapped up its annual two-week fundraiser for the Empty Stocking …
Friday morning was cold and gray, but the hearts of Cleveland and Bradley County proved to be warm with compassion and generosity.
WCLE wrapped up its annual two-week fundraiser for the Empty Stocking Fund with a record-shattering $84,536 with the broadcast ended.
The funds go each year to host a Christmas part for more than 1,000 children who otherwise may not have the Christmas experience of most other children.
The radio drive was founded 42 years ago by then-station owner Tom Rowland and current owner/host Steve Hartline picked up the baton to continue something his late grandfather, the Rev. M.E. Littlefield.
A few years ago, the fund merged its efforts with the Making Christmas Memories project which had been spearheaded by Brenda Lawson.
Last year's effort brought in $77,568 as the broadcast ended with each year's goal being to get just one dollar more.
It was much more than one dollar.
The broadcast ended with $84,536 with other donations expected to be turned in soon.
One of the highlights of this year's drive was Thursday night's "lock-in" pitting Hartline and the Chick-Fil-A Cow in a contest to see which could get the most donations and be released from the Bradley County Sheriff's Office's Christmas float which featured a fake jail cell.
Friends and passersby gave the radio host a hard time by dropping money off in support of the cow, forcing Hartline to remain in the cell for the entire two-hours of the event.
He took it in good humor and has suggested the same thing may happen again next year, with the addition of several celebrity inmates.
That was an easy idea since Thursday night brought in $5,500 in just two hours.
Friday's broadcast brought in more than $24,000, which is believed to be a one-day record.
Lawson choked up when she thought about the generosity of the area.
"Because of you, the community that always steps up and helps us, there are more than a 1,000 children who are able to have Christmas each year," Lawson said.
"I honestly didn't know how we would do this year," Hartline said. "I told the Lord this morning, but it's not ours it's the Lord's and I thank God he moved on the hearts of the most wonderful people in the world here in Cleveland and Bradley County, Tennessee."
Rowland spoke of Littlefield's admonition: "What about Dec. 26?"
Sandra Rowland said the committee would be discussing that very subject "because some of the situations are dire."
"Thanks to everyone who made a penny's difference is this year's drive," Hartline said. "This is why we do what we do. This is why I believe God gave us the ability to have a broadcast license to do something good with it."
"The Bible says if you know to do good and do it not that is sin," he added. "There are thousands of people who have helped us this year and to you I say, 'Thank you.' I am so touched by every gift of any size. It's because of the love of Jesus Christ that we do this."
"A lot of little boys and girls are going to be very happy on Dec. 16 when we have our annual Christmas party at Ocoee Middle School," Hartline said.
Donations can still be made by visiting the website at www.emptystocking.org.
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