Volunteers pitch in to help Christmas Stocking


BRATTLEBORO -- There are many ways that people can pitch in with the Reformer Christmas Stocking.

Some volunteers are long-time members of the committee that organizes it, while others may unload boxes and unpack the winter clothing that will put a smile on the faces of the local children the Stocking serves.

"I'm just an elf," said David Corey. "And there are a lot of elves. It's a process that takes a lot of volunteers to make it all happen."

Corey's wife, Joanne, is on the committee. He estimates that they have volunteered for about 10 years for the Stocking, which makes sure children from the area receive coats, boots, hats, mittens and snowpants for the younger ones.

"I can't think of anything that's more basic than providing some of the clothing that the kids need," said Corey. "The basic needs are food, shelter and clothing. We're involved in the clothing part. It's just a matter of getting the stuff there and having it available for the kids to come and pick it up."

Marshall and Veronica Wheelock are another married couple who have a similar relationship to the Stocking. Veronica had been part of the Stocking committee for a few years, so naturally Marshall began volunteering.

He's one of the people who receives a notification, by either e-mail or phone call, that another shipment has arrived in Brattleboro. The notification can come at any time as the Stocking has become a year-round program.

The clothing was distributed between Nov. 8 and 12 this year. More than 1,330 children, infant to 15, from 619 families were outfitted.

"It's amazing when you walk in," said Marshall. "It's in a basement level. You walk in and there's a flight of stairs. At the bottom, there's a huge pile of boxes. Maybe 40 to 50 boxes."

He said that anywhere from five to 10 volunteers could be assisting with the unloading and unpacking.

"You crawl over the boxes then get the clothing on hangers and boots on shelves," Marshall added. "It's amazing what a group of willing workers can accomplish in an hour to an hour and a half."

Discarding those boxes is another job in itself. The volunteers flatten all the boxes, which are then recycled. Triple T haulers then pick up the collection.

Families arrive at the site known as the "Stocking Store," which is equipped with winter clothing that Missy Galanes and her husband, Dick DeGray, purchase throughout the year.

"They don't come just in the fall," said Marshall. "Anytime Missy is able to get a good buy, she's able to go and buy it."

When asked about how many boxes are unloaded each year, Marshall said it could be in the hundreds and the sizes are all different.

"They contain different items," he said. "Some would have jackets. Some would have boots and there are different size boots. So some of the jacket boxes could be a little bit larger but jackets don't weigh as much."

Marshall told the Reformer that he continues as a Stocking volunteer because he has always liked the idea of helping people.

"We live in an area where winters get cold," he said. "And if kids don't have boots and jackets, they're going to suffer through the cold more and be less able to arrive at school in a frame of mind where they can do their best learning."

Peter Falion, who has been a Stocking volunteer for more than 14 years, told the Reformer that a younger generation is needed for this job.

"There's too much gray hair unpacking these boxes," said Falion. "We need some younger volunteers to come and help out with unpacking. It's a heavy duty job ... but it's not something strenuous."

He cited the short time given between a notification and a shipment's arrival as another reason to encourage more volunteerism. Most of the shipments come from within New England or New York.

"The unpacking is really a community event," added Falion. "Vermont Yankee has been terrific with providing people and because of community service, Brattleboro Union High School often has students come help with the unpacking of the boots. Before that, it's the unpacking of the boxes."

He told the Reformer that there were many reasons he continues to volunteer at the Stocking.

"It's such a wonderful feeling. We're so blessed to be part of one of those communities where people give what they can. When you do, you feel so good doing it," said Falion. "I've worked for a lot of organizations, corporations and efforts. This is one where we have virtually no overhead. Virtually everything is donated and that's probably the most significant reason why I like it so much. It's an effort where everyone can contribute something and get something in return."

This being the 77th year of the Stocking, Falion again urged for the younger generation to take part.

"We want to continue for another 77," he said. "We need the young people to come forward and they will when they know of the opportunity."

For those interested in volunteering, contact Pat Smith in the newsroom at 802-254-2311 ext. 108 or e-mail psmith@reformer.com.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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