Our Opinion: Tipping our hat to the Christmas Stocking
The Reformer editorial board is deeply saddened at the recent decision to bring the Reformer Christmas Stocking to an end. This long-standing tradition has been an annual event since it began in 1937 with a little girl in need of dental work. That's almost 80 years! It evolved through the years in many forms.
For several years "shoppers" would take children into a downtown store and help them pick out their coats and boots and pay the store clerk on the spot.
Over the years that became too large of a task with so many children needing help. It was decided to purchase items in bulk and have the families all come to one place to be outfitted. One such place was in the basement of the Centre Congregational Church.
The outerwear had to be stored all over town at volunteers homes, then taken to the church. When it was decided to find a place to store the items permanently, a portion of the basement of the Mental Health building on Fairview Street was offered at no charge to the Stocking.
After several years, the Stocking had outgrown that location. Then Sue and Art Greenbaum's company, GPI Construction, offered the Stocking the whole basement at their new offices on Canal Street.
Thousands of children were served by the Stocking over the years. Many grew up and volunteered for the Stocking to give back for what they had received.
The Stocking Committee managed to pull off the amazing task year after year. It ran like clockwork for so many years – the committee only met twice a year, once to kickoff the new season and once to wrap it up.
Thanks go to all the committee members over the years, as well as the ones currently serving: Bob Audette, Joni Bonello, Joanne Corey, Tom D'Errico, Karen Duggan, Betty Elwell, Peter Falion, Missy Galanes, Sue Greenbaum, Barbara Harris, Karen LaMorder, Kathy Patenaude, Pat Smith, Terri Smith and Veronica Wheelock.
Each had their own task/or tasks to make happen and they each did it well. For example, Missy Galanes with her husband, Dick DeGray, made the purchases for the Stocking. They would travel all over New England and sometimes outside of New England to find the best bargains to purchase in bulk to keep the costs as low as possible, while keeping the items high quality. But with the changing way businesses are run nowadays and distributors retiring, the availability of bargains became scarce.
In the past 50 years the Stocking has only had three chairwomen. Judie Jerald headed it for many years and then Betty Elwell lead the group for many more. When she retired from the Stocking last year the leadership was handed to Elly Majonen.
The donors were the ones that made this program survive for so long. Many gave year after year – in memory of loved ones, in honor of family members, anonymous, etc. Businesses raised money and schoolchildren collected their coins. All pitching in to help.
A peek back in our archives comes up with these thought-provoking messages:
-- 2009: "The recession has put a strain on many local families."
-- 2008: "...who taught me so many things, among them the gift of sharing and caring towards others."
-- 2006: "To warm a child, and a prayer for Peace" and "With prayers for peace in Iraq and around the world."
-- 2005: "Our future is in the children. God Bless!" and "In honor of our servicemen and women, both past and present."
-- 2004: "Life is mostly fluff and feathers. Two things stand like stone. Kindness in another's troubles, Courage in one's own."
-- 2003: "To CVPS Line Crew who maintain our power in all weather conditions."
And let's not forget all the volunteers that came to unload and unpack boxes, hang jackets, stock shelves, and outfit the children. There were many who came back each year, and each year new ones would step in to help.
So we gratefully tip our hats and thank each and every donor, committee member and volunteer that stepped up to keep the Reformer Christmas Stocking going for 78 years! We are proud and humbled to have been a part of your efforts.
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