Nine large boxes, filled with 100 Christmas stockings plus a host of bulk items provided by Central UMC’s congregation, went to the Post Office Tuesday to be sent to military outposts around the world. The shipment was the biggest ever for Central’s Christmas for the Troops project.
Gift cards, stationery, snacks of beef jerky, candy, crackers and cookies, medicines, pencils, flashlights, socks etc. were stuffed into large colorful stockings sewn by Lib Bakis (as she has done every year since 2011) to send to the troops. Monetary contributions and donated goods added up to about $4,500 available to use. Items such as lotions and foot creams are shipped separately in bulk to be distributed. Another set of products and gift cards are given to the USO at the Charlotte airport for military personnel passing through during the holidays.
On Tuesday, several volunteers carried a stocking along the tables stacked with various packages of goods, pushing socks into the toe and securing the top with a colorful clip.
Each stocking includes a hand-written letter from one of Central’s youth group. One year, the youth were surprised by a personal telephone call from one of the recipients when the young women and men were at the church for another service project. They also have a wooden cross made by Jackson Helms.
The first year of Christmas for the Troops was 2007 when personal items were sent to a clinic in Iraq where Sandra and Rick Lanier’s son Brian served as a counselor. When he went to Afghanistan filled stockings were used as an incentive to get soldiers who needed counseling into the clinic. Since then, Sandra and Rick have spearheaded the church’s effort which Sandra terms as “phenomenal.” In later years the boxes have been sent to other locations, including a military hospital in Germany.
Shopping and collecting have already started for next year. Lib buys her festive fabric for stockings at half price the day after Christmas.