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Empty Stocking Fund raises more than $1 million for Pikes Peak region nonprofits

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Jakob Rodgers, The Gazette

Consider one notable stocking no longer empty.

The latest Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking Fund campaign raised $1,144,159, making it nine straight years of bringing in at least $1 million, campaign organizers announced Monday. Most of the money was raised during a seven-week stretch from Nov. 26, 2015 through Jan. 15, campaign organizers announced Monday.

"People will live who wouldn't have lived - families will be together who wouldn't have been together," said Jerry Bruni, of the Bruni Foundation.

The tally nearly reached last season's haul of $1,163,087.

The Empty Stocking Fund began in 1984 when The Gazette sought to help families in need. The campaign was small - the first recipient was a family of three whose budget that December totaled $275 and $10 in food stamps. In all, the fund helped 27 families that year, mostly with food, medicine, Christmas presents and money for looming rent and utility bills.

But the campaign quickly grew into a behemoth.

The El Pomar Foundation and the Bruni Foundation joined the campaign, vowing to match donations. And rather than give to individual families, campaign organizers decided to give money to nonprofits operating across the Pikes Peak region - expanding each dollar's reach.

"This is a community event - this brings the community together," said Dan Steever, The Gazette's publisher.

That tradition continued this year.

The El Pomar Foundation matched $1 for every $3 donated up to $200,000. The Bruni Foundation also matched $10,000 for every $100,000 donated up to $70,000.

Twenty nonprofits received money from the fund. Each of them received their checks as a snowstorm hit the Pikes Peak region.

Every cent raised went directly to the organizations, because the administrative costs of running the campaign were covered by Wells Fargo, ADD STAFF, the El Pomar Foundation, The Anschutz Foundation and The Gazette.

"It's on a night like tonight that we all appreciate the work you're doing," said Bill Hybl, chairman and chief executive of the El Pomar Foundation.

The money comes with few spending conditions - offering nonprofits flexibility to use it in areas where other grants fall short. Silver Key Senior Services, for example, will likely use some of their roughly $66,000 haul to fund case management.

"We look at where the gaps are and plug those holes," said Lorri Orwig, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit.

The Bruni Foundation also gave an extra $4,200 to Silver Key, because the foundation's matching funds over several years reached $1 million as it wrote its check to Silver Key.