Like a pebble thrown into a pond, sometimes it only takes one person or one family to make a positive difference in the lives of thousands.
Operation Holiday Stockings, now in its ninth year, began in 2005 by David Rambin Jr., then a soldier in Iraq. He asked his parents, Susan and David of Sequim, to furnish 233 Christmas stockings for his troops’ holiday party.
“Within two weeks we ended up with 1,000 stockings and we’ve probably sent 14,000 in eight years,” said Susan Rambin. “Recipients have told me they’re a wonderful reminder of support back home.”
Volunteers across the country and in Canada sew or knit small stockings that are finger-tip-to-wrist size in length and collect goodies to go inside them including a toy, personal care items, candy canes, toothbrushes, soap, lip balm, a drink mix, gum, snacks and moist wipes.
Since Operation Holiday Stockings is now a nonprofit, the Rambins solicit and receive many donations from national vendors like Burt’s Bees, which donated 5,000 containers of lip balm this year. Dentists in Seattle have donated hundreds of travel-size tubes of toothpaste, Susan said. Necessities not donated are purchased with donations.
Operation Holiday Stockings has supplied the gifts to units that have ranged from five to 1,500 soldiers.
“We involve Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H and high school clubs to make stockings or collect items for them or money for postage,” Susan said. This year a local Girl Scout troop has taken on Operation Holiday Stockings at its winter service project.
“At their cookie sales, I told Girl Scout leader Alicia Disinski about Operation Holiday Stockings and a few weeks ago I made a presentation to Troop 43578 and they challenged every Girl Scout in Sequim to bring in 50 items each — that’s probably a minimum of 200 stockings,” David Rambin said. He added, “Last year we sent 4,300 stockings; this year we’re projecting 5,000.”
The Girls Scouts will stuff their stockings from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 Blake Ave.
“This community is overwhelmingly supportive,” Susan said. “Anybody can donate — A Dropped Stitch (170 W. Bell St.) is the drop-off point — just be sure to leave your name so we can put you on the list of contributors.”
The Rambins coordinate the entire operation with two other volunteers and call reaching out to the troops “a labor of love.”
Susan said their stuffed stockings were the only gifts one group of isolated soldiers received all year. She proudly leafs through a binder full of thank you cards and a few photos of soldiers grinning from ear to ear with their colorful stockings and noted that many fold up the stockings empty of goodies and stuff them in their pockets for a constant reminder of home and family.
“In each box of stockings I put in a letter why I’m sending it and who made them possible,” Susan said.
When asked what rewards they receive from this mammoth effort, David was nearly at a loss for words. “It’s hard to describe — I guess it’s to personally know that someone cares about them, that they’re not forgotten.” Susan added, “I think the reward is in those faces, to think that we’ve brought them a little fun and a little bit of uplifting to them is all the reward I need.”
If you have an active duty soldier you’d like to have a stocking to, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.operationholidaystockings.com. Another way to support Operation Holiday Stockings is to purchase some of its large stockings, suitable for fireplace hanging, at the Dec. 7 Soroptimists Gala Gift Show from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St., to help pay for postage.