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Stocking stuffers make season brighter for area kids

Oak Crest volunteers help Salvation Army reach holiday goals

Created date

November 22nd, 2011

The calendar may have read October, but Ann France already had visions of sugarplums dancing in her head as she began collecting donations for Oak Crest s annual stocking stuffer drive. The drive benefits the Salvation Army Baltimore Area Command. This marks our 17th year stuffing stockings, says Ann, coordinator for the Erickson Living community s giving campaign and a member of the Salvation Army for 26 years. I really enjoy it. I feel like I m carrying out what the Lord said, Give a cup of water to one of the least of these. It s my way of actually reaching out to help people.

Season of giving

In September, Ann helped register 2,000 families (more than 4,000 children) requesting Christmas stockings a 20% increase since 2009. This year Oak Crest will donate 400 of these stockings. Unfortunately, we re limited to how many people we can help, says Ann. Each stocking we do costs anywhere from $15 to $18 to stuff. Ann makes sure each of the stockings includes a hat, gloves, scarf, and socks. We re lucky to have such generous people living here at Oak Crest, says Ann. Because of their generosity we ve been able to hold steady with our donations even during a tough economy. Ann does her best to stretch those donations by shopping at the Dollar Tree located on East Joppa Road, in Carney, where over the years she has forged a partnership with employee Janet Smith. Janet is my right hand, so to speak, says Ann. Beginning right after Halloween she starts keeping an eye out for items that we might be able to use in the stockings. Then I ll go over periodically to shop and see what she has.

Santa s helpers

Once Ann has finished all the shopping, an enthusiastic group of more than 50 Oak Crest volunteers assemble to stuff the stockings with toys, games, and clothing for boys and girls ages 11 and 12. They then deliver the stockings to the Salvation Army Christmas headquarters in the Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden, where they will be distributed to the families later this month. Everyone who participates in the program really looks forward to it every year, says Ann. For some people it has really become a holiday tradition. It s hard to describe the feeling you get when you re stuffing a stocking that you know is going to make some child really happy, especially when you know they might otherwise not have anything under their Christmas tree. It s a wonderful feeling. After nine years, Ann says she still gets goose bumps when she sets foot in the warehouse on distribution day. I often see some of the people I met when they were registering, says Ann. They will come up to me and say Hi. For me, that s really the best part seeing the happy faces of all the people we re helping. I usually bring my grandkids along with me. It s been a great life lesson for them on giving back. In addition to stuffing stockings, Oak Crest volunteers work at the Salvation Army s Angel Tree locations at area shopping malls throughout the holiday season. For more information on the Baltimore Area Salvation Army, visit tsabaltimore.org.

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