Christmas House is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that provides gifts for more than 900 local children, all from families referred to us by local school social workers as being most in need of assistance.
Christmas House is the Chapel Hill Service League’s signature annual community outreach project and has been in continuous operation since 1950. For more 70 years, it's made the holidays brighter for local families in need. With the generous support of our community, parents and guardians attend a one-day shopping spree to select new toys, books, and coats for their children.
By Natasha Smith | December 2020
Chapel Hill Service League Historian
Happy Birthday, dear Christmas House! This year marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most successful, long-lasting and beneficial League initiatives -- Christmas House, originally known as Empty Stocking. 2020 precludes us from celebrating this impressive milestone the way we would like. Yet still, let’s cheer to the great women whose kindness and great imagination contributed so much to our community. Their big hearts positively impacted many lives and showed others how we can all make a difference. Our huge gratitude goes to them!
Our archive’s contemporary documents give us insight into the original and main development of the project. Here are a few years to remember and celebrate:
President Maxine Fitch. The new project Empty Stocking was inaugurated! In the first year, 777 people were “helped”, 573 of them in the northern part of the Orange county. $954.81 in cash was collected, and approximately $1,000 in merchandise was donated.
President Phyllis Adams. The second annual Orange County Empty Stocking Fund Campaign netted $1,150.06 in cash and an estimated $3,500 worth of clothing, toys and food. A total of 848 persons were helped (437 children and 411 seniors and people with disabilities.)
President Shirley Rettie. The League decided not to sponsor the annual event Empty Stocking, but instead to create a new project. The new initiative had a tentative name of Christmas Unlimited. It was later renamed and introduced to the public as The Christmas House!
President Gladys Martin. The biggest event of the year was creating what became a true hallmark of the League for many decades to come – Christmas House. Previously known as Empty Stocking, the initiative did not simply change its name, it changed the process used in helping families in need. As stated in one of the historic documents, “the emphasis was placed on assisting parents in providing Christmas for their families rather than replacing them.” Parents were invited to “shop” for their children, using coupons mailed in advance. This is how Christmas House was created and has prospered ever since.