For 75 years, when the Reformer asked, the community said yes.
That’s how long the Reformer has been sponsoring the Christmas Stocking, which provides brand-new winter clothing to children, purchased with donations collected starting in late November through the beginning of January.
In its first year, 1937, the Stocking collected $280. Last year, $90,000 was raised from individuals, groups, businesses schools and organizations in the community. The clothes were distributed earlier this month to children from more than 600 families in southeastern Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire.
The Christmas Stocking is run by volunteers, and it’s on their minds all year long. They spend long hours meeting in advance of each year’s clothes distribution, combing through applications and getting ready for the fundraising campaign. Some volunteers help unload shipments and organize the clothes while others don the signature red aprons and help families find just the right fit for the kids. And then there are those who spend hour upon hour knitting gloves and caps.
"It really is a circle of caring," said Betty Elwell, chairwoman, during last year’s fundraising drive. "We couldn’t function without our volunteers."
But they all say the hard work is worth it when they see the look on a child’s face when he or she chooses a brand new winter jacket or a pair of boots.
"It’s not hard to get caught up in the excitement of the Stocking," said Elwell. "When the kids get to choose the color of their jacket and get matching boots, their faces light up."
In the past seven-and-a-half decades, thousands upon thousands of children have been clothed by the generosity of their neighbors. And that generosity has meant more than can be expressed through mere words, but let’s try:
"We have no extra money, and this is great for us -- to get new clothes and boots to keep the kids warm."
"Two years ago, our house burned down and we had nothing. You don’t realize what you had until it’s all gone."
"I’ve known about it for years, and I always thought it was a great idea. This is the first time we’ve had to use it, so I’m glad it’s still here."
"My parents donate money every year. Even it it’s only $20, every little bit helps. ... and it comes back to you if you donate one year and find that you need the Christmas Stocking in the future."
"We’re thankful for receiving this. It will be a great help."
"This is a great program. I’ve never been here, and you look around and say, ‘People really do care. They really do."
Yes, people really do care, and each year, the Christmas Stocking proves it.
In a perfect world, we could hope that such a service wouldn’t be needed, but as we know, this is not a perfect world.
We hope the community continues to give to help keep children warm throughout the winter. Every little bit counts.
To contribute, mail donations to Reformer Christmas Stocking, PO Box 703, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0703, or pay online at reformer.com/christmasstocking.