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Operation Stocking'

Volunteers on target to send 6,000 packages to soldiers overseas

Created date

November 23rd, 2009

Some call it Operation Stocking; others think it s a spin on stocking stuffing ; Fannie Kessler says it s all about reaching outside of the self and doing something good for someone else. [caption id="attachment_6791" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Top: Soldiers, usually referred to by last name only, appreciate seeing their first names on stockings. Below: Fannie Kessler with Joe Biden. Right: Soldiers with gifts. (Photos courtesy of Stockings for Soldiers)"]Maris Grove in 2006, and when she introduced Stockings for Soldiers to her new community, the residents responded with enthusiasm. Since then, Maris Grove volunteers have gathered together weekly beginning in early October sewing the stockings and gathering items to stuff in them. But this year, some of the ladies asked, Why can t we start earlier? So we started in February, Kessler says. By October, they had created 3,200 cards. Cards are made from old Christmas cards that people donate. The front of the card is ripped off, then a message for each soldier is written by hand on the back. This year, the organization s goal is to send 6,000 cards and stockings decorated with the soldiers first names. They ve told us how much it means to them seeing their first names in writing, because they re all referred to by their last names or titles, Kessler says. Aside from old holiday cards, people donate many other items, which are put into the stockings: books, DVDs, phone cards, handmade fleece blankets, hygiene products, and batteries. Kessler tells a story about how a man got a woman s stocking by mistake one year. There were tampons in the stocking, and he stuffed them in his pocket. Someone on his unit got shot that day, and they couldn t stop the bleeding. The soldier used the tampon to plug the wound, which stopped the blood flow and saved his comrade s life. Supposedly, that s a true story, Kessler says, and now tampons are requested by the soldiers. Happy Harry s, a local drugstore, also donates leftover candy, and the soldiers hand it out to Afghan and Iraqi children, touching a generation that can be saved by a small gesture.

Something for everyone to do

Kessler can often be found coordinating donations at the Stockings for Soldiers headquarters in Wilmington, Del., where there are computers, label-makers, scales, and a postage machine so volunteers can apply postage themselves. Kessler was there when Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, stopped by in 2008; their son was deployed in Iraq, and they wanted to give their time to help. The project is a considerable undertaking, and it takes hundreds of people to pull it off. Every year, there are volunteers who cut the stockings out of a pattern and sew them. The Glitter Crew comes in and puts the soldiers first names on the stockings and decorates them. Then there are the people who fill the stockings, stuffing them to overflowing capacity, and there are those who box them up, make the labels, and apply the postage. It s like an assembly line when we get going. The stockings are checked four times before they go out to make sure everything is in them, Kessler says. There are other ways to be involved with Stockings for Soldiers that are less hands-on. Every year, Kessler puts a box for donations in the creative arts studio of each clubhouse at Maris Grove and another in the clubhouse lobby. If someone is unable to give items, the organization also accepts monetary donations for postage and supplies. There s even something for the Delaware National Guard to do. After all the stockings are boxed and the boxes labeled, their people swoop in, arriving in large trucks to cart the thousands of boxes away for transport. Stockings for Soldiers has also had sponsors Wal-Mart donated $1,600 in 2008. I ve found that people are happy to help out if they know what they can do, Kessler says. For more information on how you can participate in the effort, please