Empty Stocking Fund

Knoxville (WVLT) - The need is never-ending.

But the struggle comes to the forefront every year during this time of giving and holiday joy.

The heartache of Knoxville's hungry and financially hurting was tended to early this morning as thousands received a fully stocked food basket.

It's a 95 year tradition, The Knoxville News Sentinel's Empty Stocking fund.

An unseasonably mild December morning.

"The food line is round back here. Follow the yellow brick road's what I tell em."

Hundreds form a line of hope.

One that wraps around the Knoxville Expo Center.

Anticipation grows, awaiting the opening of a path.

A doorway to a bountiful holiday season.

Betty France says, "It'll make all the difference in the world."

"I'm picking up an empty stocking fund basket," says Ida Stanford.

Stories abound fill this line. Most have simply fallen on hard times. But certainly not from the thought's of others.

Farragut High students sing about a fantasy.

But each 70 pound box instead helps that dream become a reality.

"We've been having a very hard time. My husband's very ill."

These volunteer helps ease that pain.

A holiday feast now awaits Zora Humphery

"There's a turkey, oranges," says Zora Humphery.

"For many, many of these people. This is the difference between eating and not eating for one to two weeks," says Diana Morgan of Empty Stocking Fund.

Zora's just thankful for the compassion.

"People's open their heart whole heartedly to help the poor people," says Humphery.

"I feel like it's a blessing that you can come to a place like this and get food. And it doesn't make you feel like you begging."

Sharing the wealth is a definitive theme for today.

Some of the food loaded into Ida Stanford's car will be shared with her neighbors.

"I don't know if they'll have a meal or not. So I'm gonna take them a meal. Those that can't cook," says Stanford.

While those with able hands, and a willing heart are the lifeline for such generosity to begin with.

"I don't usually do a lot of hard work. And my never had to scrimp for supplies for Christmas dinner or anything. So this is kind of opens your eyes to the other side," says volunteer Umang Schukla.

If you're unsure of just how big an undertaking the empty stocking fund is, just look at the numbers 3,500 families, consisting of around 8,000 people got help Saturday, thanks to a volunteer force of 700, and many more throughout the year.