Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The meeting room was colorful and crowded. Stockings and posters hung everywhere as people enjoyed a good meal Sunday afternoon. Items to be auctioned off lined the hallways and Santa was walking around.
Well, if that sounds like a lot of work, it was. It took Teresa Manna and the volunteers of United Stockings for Sailors Soldiers over 12 hours preparing for the annual drive’s special fundraiser Sunday at Emmanuel United Methodist Church on East Avenue.
The idea of USSS is simple, deliver all kinds of goods to American troops via decorated stockings. Those stockings are filled with non-perishable foods, sunglasses, personal items, clothing, tools and Christmas items.
And, people packed the church to have a meal and bid in a basket auction consisting of over 100 American made items. All of the proceeds go to help USSS and its shipping costs.
The stockings drive began two years ago, when Teresa Manna’s Navy daughter Katherine Savant mentioned the soldiers who never get anything from the mail bag during the holidays. Items and stockings were stored in the Manna home in Lockport.
Manna said the goal is to send 7,000 stockings.
“It’s grown so much,” she said.
People can help, with donations or with stockings of their own. Just pack stockings with items and gifts, then USSS will send them to American troops. Over the past two years, stockings have been sent to Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Italy, Korea, deployed naval ships and bases on American soil. In 2010, when the drive started, the group put together 800 stockings and sent them in just 10 days.
The feedback has been overwhelming, especially from the servicemen and women who don’t have anyone to send them gifts or goodies.
To make sure the stockings reach troops overseas, they’ll have to be shipped by Dec. 7, Manna said. Donations will be accepted up until Dec. 5. And USSS is looking for volunteers.
People can contact Manna on the USSS Facebook page or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. But be careful, Manna said. In the past, some have asked for donations on behalf of USSS without actually being a part of the group or without Manna’s knowledge.
“Ask for ID,” she said.
Help is coming from all over the community. A number of businesses chipped in with Sunday’s fundraiser.
At Wilson High School, Manna shared the USSS project idea with Janet Durham, a Wilson School District employee. Durham approached Deborah Sweeney, a family and consumer science teacher, about the possibility of have a school wide USSS project. Sweeney talked to one of her classes that agreed it would be a great project and were willing to work outside the classroom for the success of the project.
Sweeney’s students decorated red boxes that were placed in each social studies class and students received a flyer explaining the project and how they could donate to fill the red boxes. The students made and circulated USSS gallon donation jars. The jars were placed at businesses in the Wilson and Ransomville community, as well as other places where students had contacts.
Wilson School employees and community members donated red and white felt for the stockings and thread and other supplies to decorate the stockings. A bake sale was held on Oct. 25 at Wilson and over $100 was collected. Sweeney cut out, sewed and decorated 175 stockings.
It’s possible the USSS drive is a personal one for Wilson. By email, Sweeney said Durham has a son who is in the military and presently serving overseas. High School students created a red, white and blue showcase outside the school library honoring the 7 military veterans that are Wilson faculty and staff.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.