by Lisa Tome
Charles Wilson knows what it's like to be without little luxuries during the holidays.
Even when he was stationed at Santa's home, the North Pole.
Wilson, 82, who served in the United States Coast Guard from 1952-1955, would have liked to have had a little bit of home when he was ship bound.
"I would have liked to have had this when we were out to sea. I would have appreciated it," said Wilson.
Wilson is a current member of the Young at Heart senior citizens group which meets Tuesdays at Charlestown's St. John's United Methodist Church. One of the Young at Heart projects for the holidays is filling Stockings for Soldiers. Member Pauline Bryant is coordinating the giving for Young at Heart. She explained that seniors are filling the stockings with items such as batteries, toothpaste, playing cards, lotion, lip balm, gum, hand sanitizer, and hot beverage mixes.
"It's really reasonable to do this," said Bryant.
She got the stockings and the idea from a local funeral home.
For the sixth year, Crouch Funeral Home, in partnership with the community is gathering Christmas Stockings for Soldiers.
Last year, more than 800 stockings were distributed. Patty Demond coordinates the effort for Crouch Funeral Home. She explained that the funeral home supplies the stockings and pays the shipping. The rest of the work and the shopping is done by volunteers like those at Young at Heart. "We have churches, schools, and the military organizations. Anyone can participate, They can take as many as they want. Everyone likes this project. The community steps up, they really do," she said.
Those who have received the stockings have in turn, expressed their gratitude. The funeral home has received thank you notes and emails from grateful deployed military. An appreciation gift sent last year was an American flag flown over a military installation and forwarded to the funeral home.
Jeff Taylor is also a member of Young at Heart. He served in the U.S. Army for 16 years. "I would have liked to have gotten one," said Taylor as he looked at stocking supplies. "It's a great idea. The thought makes you feel good that people think of you."
Ray Weatherington, a Young at Heart member who served in the Marine Corps from 1965-69, said he also supports the project and suggested that powered cold drink mix be included in the stockings.