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Annual bowling tournament largest contributor to Empty Stocking

LUMBERTON - What began as an idea to help provide Christmas for needy children during a fun-filled day of bowling has become the biggest contributor to the Empty Stocking Fund.

According to organizers, the Empty Stocking Fund Bowling Tournament was first held in 2001, and since then has raised $110,610 for the Empty Stocking Fund, a fundraising campaign held each year by The Robesonian. The newspaper raises money that is used by the Robeson County Department of Social Services to provide $50 vouchers to qualifying children.

This year the bowling tournament contributed $9,000 to Empty Stocking Fund, doing so just before the Friday deadline. It was the second highest amount in the tournament's history, said Adrian Lowery, executive director of the Lumberton Housing Authority, who helps coordinate the event each year.

The record, $11,002, was set in 2008.

The Empty Stocking Fund this year raised about $74,000, enough to provide Christmas gifts for about 1,480 children. The record for the fund is about $87,000, which was set in 2018.

The bowling tournament began in 2001 as a collaboration between Lowery, Mike Lovin and Scott McLean, owner of the Lumberton Bowling Center. At the time, Lovin and Lowery worked with the Lumber River Council of Governments, which was looking for a way to raise money for a local charity.

"We looked at various charities and decided to raise funds for the Empty Stocking Fund, basically because it benefited low-income families with children," Lowery said. "The COG has administered many programs designed to do just that, benefit low-income families. We felt it was perfect group to assist."

And bowling was the perfect activity.

Lowery said that, unlike the original idea of a softball tournament, bowling offered an environment not at the mercy of weather conditions or a lengthy tournament process. Bowling tournaments can finish within a day's time. McLean's generosity in offering the bowling center as a venue also played a role in the decision.

The Robeson County departments of Social Services and Public Health were recruited to join the tournament.

The tournament raised $2,000 in its first year.

"Every year since, we have surpassed that first year's total," Lowery said.

Teams from the Lumberton Bowling Center's Saturday youth leagues, local high schools, and from bowling leagues in Robeson and surrounding counties participate in the event. Many of them get sponsorships as a way to raise money.

"I am very thankful that this bowling tournament has become the biggest contributor to the Empty Stocking Fund," Lowery said. "Bowling is not the biggest sport in the world, but it has its very own family here in Lumberton."

Donnie Douglas, editor of The Robesonian, is also appreciative

"I was here in 2001 when they first showed up with the money," Douglas said, "and had no idea that 18 years later the bowling tournament would still be going on and the amount of money it would raise."

According to Douglas, since 2001 the Empty Stocking Fund has raised about $1.2 million.

"So if you think about it, the tournament has been responsible for about one out of every 10 dollars raised during that time," Douglas said. "No doubt it is the biggest contributor over that time. We are really appreciative to Adrian, Scott and Mike for coming up with the idea and making it happen every year."

Lowery said the tournament serves many purposes.

"The Empty Stocking Fund Bowling Tournament is important to Lumberton and Robeson County. It is important to the league bowlers, it is important to agencies such as the Lumberton COG, Lumberton Housing Authority and the Robeson DSS," Lowery said. "It is extremely important to the thousands of families who have benefited over the years from the proceeds raised by this tournament."

An example came in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

"Many folks had drained their finances in recovering from Matthew," he said.

But on Dec. 10, 2016, the tournament raised $7,130 with the participation of 105 bowlers on 21 different teams, Lowery said.

Following is a list of contributors to the tournament this year: Tonka Maynor in honor of Leon Maynor contributed $500; Allen Orthopedics, PA contributed $500; R&R Protective Services contributed $300; Jan Maynor in honor of Leon Maynor contributed $300; Valissa and Adrian Lowery in honor of Leon Maynor contributed $300; Central Builders, Inc. contributed $300; All Star Pest Management contributed $300; Dorsey Landscape & Irrigation contributed $300; Pembroke Hardware Company contributed $300; B&R Consulting, LLC contributed $300; Twilla and Brad Allen contributed $200; Lumberton FFA contributed $150; Elk Drywall Company contributed $150; Graham Law Firm, Inc. contributed $150; Lumberton Junior Service League, Inc. contributed $150; Musselwhite, Musselwhite, Branch contributed $150; Phillip C. Jarrell, LLC contributed $150; Robert Cline, Jr. contributed $150; Southeastern Step & Deck, Inc. contributed $150; We Care for You Homecare Corporation contributed $150; The Wooten Company contributed $150; William B. Smith Jr. contributed $100; Roberson Lawn Maintenance contributed $100; RAM Finance Corporation contributed $100; Collins & Associates DDS, PA, contributed $100; Computer Services of Lumberton contributed $100; Revels Insurance Agency, Inc. contributed $75; J&A Grocery, Inc. contributed $75; Anesica Locklear-Herring contributed $60; Donny Chavis Plumbing contributed $50; Kevin Britt contributed $30; Billie Ann McRae contributed $30; Robert Prevatte contributed $20; Ted's Alarm & Lock contributed $25 and H&T Lockup contributed $25.

Annual tourney has raised $110,000 for Empty Stocking.
This article originally published in The Robesonian December 23, 2019.