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Christmas Stocking Fund gets critical guidance from program leaders
Marilyn Pfarr and Pam Drafall get toys ready for the Christmas Stocking Fund's toy drive at the Behring Senior Center Wednesday. Pfarr has been volunteering with the stocking fund for about 10 years. To order this photo, click here. (Times photos: Marissa Weiher)

About the Christmas Stocking Fund

The Christmas Stocking Fund is an annual effort of the Monroe Woman's Club. The club collects money and other donations, and distributes toys and vouchers for shoes and boots to children in need in the Monroe school district. Families receive food boxes, complete with ingredients to prepare a holiday meal, delivered before Christmas. Cheer boxes are also delivered to the elderly.

Every year, the Christmas Stocking benefits hundreds of families. Names of families in need are offered confidentially by school officials, counselors and area churches. The effort requires a multitude of volunteers who shop for families, bake cookies and pack and deliver food boxes.

To donate to the Christmas Stocking Fund, send contributions to 901 16th Ave., Monroe, WI, 53566. All contributions are used locally to fund the program.

MONROE - As a part of the annual season of giving, members of the Monroe Woman's Club have worked for hours each day coordinating shoppers, donations and families to spread holiday cheer to hundreds of people in Monroe.

But although the Club's Christmas Stocking Fund program enlists scores of volunteers, it survives thanks to the program's leaders, some of whom have worked for Christmas Stocking for almost 30 years.

"We all know what each other does and what we all need to do," said Mary Deininger, family coordinator and de facto leader of the Christmas Stocking.

Deininger said the familiarity between the leaders of the program's various committees allows them to coordinate and communicate well, in order to serve an ever-expanding number of people.

Jennifer Spielman, food box coordinator for the Stocking, said the program would send more than 500 boxes to more than 300 families this season.

"We have to work very closely together," Spielman said. "We can't do any of the food boxes until all the families have been contacted."

Deininger said she begins contacting families in September to determine what items need to be collected for the boxes. At about the same time, the coordinators for the toy drive work to set up donation locations at local businesses.

"Some places put out their donation spots in October, but others don't want to put them out until December," toy drive coordinator Marilyn Pfarr said.

Although the toy drive coordinators work closely with the family coordinators, Pfarr said every branch of the Christmas Stocking is closely interrelated.

"We support each other regardless of what our jobs are," Pfarr said.

Pfarr added that toy drive donations were down this year, with some donation spots yielding only a handful of toys per week.

"It's extremely unusual, and I hope it picks up soon," Pfarr said.

Spielman said the food boxes will be assembled next week to be delivered by volunteers to residences Dec. 22.

Spielman was happy to report that food boxes would be sent to families with children of all ages, after the Stocking was forced to cut support last year to families of middle school and high school students.

"We've had a lot of support; it's a wonderful community to come out," Spielman said.

Of course, the work doesn't stop even after the food boxes are delivered. Kathy Reffue, treasurer and fundraising coordinator, said her job keeps going until months after Christmas.

Reffue said she has to obtain receipts from volunteer shoppers and tally up how much money is raised throughout the entire season.

"By three days before Christmas, everyone else is done," Reffue said. "But I'll still be working until February."

Deininger said the non-stop work could be tiring, adding that she wouldn't want to scare away her eventual successor by saying how many hours of work per day the job requires.

"Some days are more consuming than others," she said.

Deininger, who has worked for the Stocking for nearly 30 years, said the program received a blow in October with the death of Nancy Pilz, who helped organize the program's Cheer Boxes for senior citizens.

"It was very sad for everybody, and we all miss her at the meetings," Deininger said, adding that Cheer Box co-chair Monda Hess had picked up Pilz's work after her death, having refused to accept a replacement out of respect for Pilz.

"Still, we could all drop over tomorrow and someone would carry on for us," Deininger said. "But we could never ever do all of this without our volunteers and donations. If we ever put out word that we need more funding, the community would help us."

"Either that, or you'd find me in jail," Deininger laughed.