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Community group makes stockings, cards for Veterans

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The fine arts of sewing and crafting are highly personal in nature and application, especially during the holidays. Now, this Christmas, a team of Hernando County community members have crafted beautiful handmade stockings as a gesture of love and appreciation for those who serve and defend our country.

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For about six years, under the guidance and leadership of Spring Hill’s Carolyn Haase who is a resident of Wellington of Seven Hills, the team has provided holiday stockings for the Soldiers’ Angels. Which is a non-profit 501c3 organization headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, started by the mom of a deployed soldier who sent care packages to her son (soldiersangels.org). This year, the project was made possible through a grant from the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill. “We started small and have grown to providing 200 stockings each year for the past 3 years,” said Haase.

This is a deeply personal effort for Haase. “After I retired I wanted to do something to volunteer that I could potentially do from home,” she said. “After careful vetting, I found Soldiers’ Angels. They have numerous nationwide teams that support deployed soldiers and veterans in VA hospitals in a variety of ways.”

In lending her own support, Haase chose a form of artistic expression also close to her heart. “I joined the Sewing and Craft team because I love to sew and make crafts and enlisted a few of my friends along the way, including Cheri Stevenson who helps me with the sewing, planning and decision making each year,” she said. “Throughout the year our group sews pillowcases, walker bags, dignity bags, sand scarves, paracord bracelets, pajama pants and other items as requested. Our biggest project of the year is holiday stockings for deployed soldiers and veterans in VA hospitals across the country.”

Much like Santa’s elves, Haase and her team work year round to hand sew Christmas stockings for the benefit of veterans. “Our preparation starts immediately after we ship the current year’s stockings. We make our own stockings out of fabric and felt to save money and keep the weight of the stockings to a minimum,” said Haase.

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This is truly and in all ways a team effort. “We have one volunteer, (member of the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill) Angela Hogan, who cuts out all 200 stockings and one volunteer Sally Schenkelberg who hand makes all 200 holiday cards that we include in the stockings,” said Haase. “Our community volunteers help us sew them together, and many of our community neighbors donate in kind items for the stockings as well as financial donations to purchase additional items as well as shipping costs.”

The team puts a great deal of expense into the stockings, and even more heart. “Our shipping costs are over $400 per year to ship the stockings. Items in the stockings include candy canes, word puzzle books, playing cards, jerky, stress balls, holiday pens, notepads, hand held games, trail mix, drink mixes, lip balm, toothbrush and travel size toothpaste,” said Haase. “Our community neighbors in Wellington at Seven Hills have been extraordinarily generous, including our Wellington Veterans Club and Wellington Golf League. Without their help we would not be able to provide these stockings, as well as all the other items we ship throughout the year. We love supporting our soldiers and veterans!”

Aside from the project grant, the Kiwanis Club of Spring Hill and their “K Kids” youth volunteers have helped stuff the Angels’ stockings in previous years. “It’s a fantastic project. I come from a family of veterans, and this is one of the most rewarding things we can do,” said Donna Gaula, president of the Spring Hill Kiwanis Club. “It’s time we started reflecting on what these vets have to go through.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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