Each year for many, many years our organization has partnered with the Presbyterian Women’s organizations at several of the local churches to make and fill stockings for folks at our correctional facilities in the area. We had requests for over 3,000 stockings this year, a new record! Each stocking was hand sewn and we had 2 groups gather early in December to fill the stockings with Snickers, Tootsie rolls, peppermint candies, gummy’s, peanut butter crackers and a granola bar. We also included a small card with some inspirational words for the inmates to read as they enjoyed their treat.
This was my first year coordinating this effort and I must admit that I did not realize the impact that delivering these stockings had. I know we had a fun time with our assembly line as we stuffed them all, but I wondered what a few pieces of candy might mean to the recipients. A short time after Christmas, letters started coming in. A few a first, then some more…then today a big stack of letters arrived. Each was written with sincerity and gratitude for the fact that someone cared about a group of strangers, strangers who may not have had a lot to look forward to. As I read each one, I got more and more emotional, knowing that we made such a positive impression on all the people who received a stocking.
As one person wrote, “I am one of the lucky few who have caring friends and family, but many do not. Even to me, it is important to know there is a caring community of individuals who give their time and resources to make our season special.”
Another wrote, ”Thoughts and kind words make Christmas special, but gifts of care express the love of God one has for another. Especially to those who feel lost and forgotten.”
I smiled as I imagined this scene… “I wish I could share with each of you the joy that your giving brought to this institution. The men ran around like kids in a candy store, sharing with each other what they received. Even the old crotchety officer who got assigned the task of passing out the stockings got caught up in the spirit. I called him a Secret Santa and I saw a sparkle in his eye! Everyone was smiling! A few showed stockings they received from previous years. More valued was the spirit in which the stockings were given. Thanks for caring about those of us who believed we weren’t worth caring for anymore…we needed that.”
A man named Herbert wrote “None of us deserve anything from you and that makes these gifts mean that much more. Knowing that someone out there still wants us to have a Merry Christmas gives me hope for what life has waiting for me when I finally do get out. Thank you to all the hands that took part in this beautiful act of kindness.”
To sum it all up, the final letter I read today simply said this, “We are grateful for God’s love and for creating people like you. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to put these packages together. Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.”
I cannot wait for next year’s stocking program…but for now, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
For more information or to help out next year, please send an email to Tom@HelpEquipment.org.