In early Spring, when most people are thinking about planting gardens, cleaning out their garages, and the approaching April 15 tax deadline, HELP Adult Services has already begun plans to fill 3,000 Christmas stockings. For decades this traditional program has been orchestrated by HELP Adult Services and supported area-wide by Presbyterian churches, volunteers, and a variety of commercial donors.
What is the Christmas stockings program? Annually, in mid-December, stockings filled with goodies are given to the intended recipients—incarcerated adults and youth residing in 11 area detention centers. Many times this will be the only gift they will receive.
Endless yards of Christmas-patterned fabrics are gathered at after-Christmas sales every year with the help of local Presbyterian volunteers, many from the Presbyterian Woman’s Groups. The fabric is then cut and sewn into stockings according to regulation and delivered to HELP Adult Services. All year the festive stack of Christmas stockings develops like a fast-growing evergreen.
Although the Christmas Stockings project is considered to be a “once a year” project, extensive behind-the-scenes planning indicates otherwise. As one stocking seamstress claimed, “Yes, this project is once a year…all year”.
Each prison location has its own lists of allowable items which must be checked against contraband lists. Unacceptable items may change year-to-year and may include anything foil-wrapped, bar soap, and shampoo in non-clear containers. Beef jerky sticks and crackers are favorites.
By mid-March, or early Spring, confirmation of continuing support is pursued with an annual network of individual and commercial discount donors. HELP purchases 3-5 items per stocking in the form of acceptable food items or donations. Although paying one dollar per item may seem trivial at first, it quickly adds up to $4.00 per stocking—or $12,000.00!
Like clockwork, in early December, a large group of volunteers meets
for fun and filling the festive stockings assembly-line style in two
of the facilities in