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Holiday celebrations far from home

Volunteers prepare stockings for military personnel overseas

Created date

November 26th, 2013
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When holiday shopping starts in earnest and decorations go up across the Maris Grove campus, a group of neighbors scramble like elves to meet the deadline for their annual Stockings for Soldiers project. The entirely resident-funded project represents the volunteer spirit that thrives throughout Maris Grove, the Erickson Living community in Delaware County, Pa. Sisters-in-law Helene and Kathy Maculaitis coordinate the effort to sew and send personalized stockings stuffed with goodies to American service personnel overseas, especially to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. They deliver the sewn stocking to Wilmington, Del., then make a second trip to help stuff and put recipients names on the stockings. The members delivered 3,400 stockings to the Stockings for Soldiers headquarters in Wilmington last year. They aim to equal or exceed that number this year.

A year-long project

Things get under way in January when Helene orders fabric for the stockings. She also solicits donations of stocking stuffers from merchants in Delaware County and far-flung companies such as lip balm maker Burt s Bees. The group also solicits stocking stuffers and holiday cards from residents. Some 35 campus volunteers help cut, sew, and press the stockings. When Barbara Borgiet bought a new sewing machine two years ago, she joined the group. Charlotte Hinderhofer helps knit wool caps bound for troops in Afghanistan where nights get bitterly cold. She knitted 90 caps last year and will donate 100 this year. She s participated since 2008 because she believes in the organization s mission. This is good motivation to keep knitting; I never stop, Charlotte says. Now that my grandson has joined the Army, it s more personal. Stocking recipients each receive a 10-gallon plastic bag containing a well-stuffed stocking plus paperback books and puzzles, candy, drink mixes, and canned goods. They also receive a holiday card bearing a personally written message. At monthly meetings, Maris Grove volunteers cut off the front of reused holiday cards. At card signings before dinner in the clubhouse living rooms, residents write a personal message on the blank side. Lots of residents write messages, and some of them receive thank-you notes, says Helene. Kathy always writes that she s from Delaware County. It s a little bit of home if someone s from the Philadelphia area or has relatives there, she says. Last year, after Charlotte began tucking a card with her name, email, and mailing address into each knitted cap, a recipient emailed a photo of himself wearing his. I got so excited, she says.

Meanwhile...

Campus choral programs, Hanukkah-lighting ceremonies, a Christmas Cantata, and serenades from Victorian carolers will convey the joys of the season to Maris Grove residents all December long. And Stockings for Soldiers volunteers will share some of that joy with the troops who are celebrating far from home. For the past ten years, Stockings for Soldiers Delaware has sent personalized holiday greetings to men and women in uniform serving halfway around the world. To volunteer for the 2014 stockings project, email judy@StockingsForSoldiers.org, or call 302-475-2526.

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