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'Tis the Stocking season
Photo submitted The members of Young Professionals of Green County are coordinating toy drives in conjunction with their November and December meetings. This is the second year the group has participated in the Monroe Womans Club Christmas Stocking project to help needy children in the area have a merrier Christmas. Standing, from left, are Lisa Schickert, Lindsay Jubeck and Ryan Zitner. Seated is Tory Tullis-Zettle.

Ways You Can Help Christmas Stocking

The Christmas Stocking always is in need of funds to fulfill its mission to spread Christmas cheer to those in need. But in addition to donating money, there are many other ways to get involved and lend a helping hand. Here are a few ideas:

1. Collect gently used winter outerwear. Coats are collected, cleaned and distributed to children.

2. Organize a toy drive. New toys are collected and distributed to children.

3. Bake cookies to be included in cheer and food boxes.

4. Volunteer to help wrap food boxes.

5. Help pack and deliver food boxes.

6. Shop for a family. Volunteer shoppers select clothes and toys for children.

7. Save the fronts of your Christmas cards. Used cards will be used to decorate food boxes next year.

Call Sue Barrett at 328-4420 for more information about volunteering or organizing a toy drive to help.

MONROE - With just fewer than six weeks left until Christmas, volunteers for the Christmas Stocking Fund are in full swing, working to make the holidays a little brighter for those in need.

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

Every year, the Christmas Stocking benefits hundreds of families: Last year, 300 families received help from the Christmas Stocking, up from 270 families the year before. Names of families in need are offered confidentially by school officials, counselors and area churches.

It's a massive effort, one requiring a multitude of volunteers who shop for families, bake cookies, pack and deliver food boxes - the list of needed tasks seems endless. Donated items must be sorted so volunteer shoppers can make selections from what is available before heading to local stores to purchase what hasn't been donated.

One trend the Christmas Stocking has seen over the years is a willingness by many businesses and groups of employees to pitch in to help a good cause.

Culver's, for example, is one of many local businesses that sponsor an annual toy drive to collect gift items for the Christmas Stocking. The Culver's toy drive starts today.

The effort, now in its fourth year, started as a way to do something to help young people.

"We've done canned food drives before, and we thought it would be nice to do something for children," said Della Hathaway, one of Culver's owners.

The drive aims at both employees and customers. Culver's gives customers who donate a new toy a coupon for a free dish of custard. It's a "small incentive, a way to say thank-you", Hathaway said.

In many Monroe workplaces, employees are pooling money to make a group donation to Christmas Stocking. Sometimes these groups are making the donation instead of having an office gift exchange.

Growing up in Monroe, Carrie Blum remembers her family "adopting" a family through Christmas Stocking. It left an impression on her, and last year Blum decided to make a donation to Christmas Stocking instead of buying presents for her employees in the Information Technology department at Monroe Clinic.

The idea was well-received, and the department is donating as a group this year, Blum said. Instead of "buying yet another calendar" for gift-giving, pooling money for a donation is way to make a difference, she said. And, "I like that it's right here in Monroe."

The Clinic's Materials Management department also made a monetary contribution as a group last year.

For department worker Peggy Klemm, donating to the fund also is borne of personal experience. Back in the 1960s, she and her 17 siblings were beneficiaries of the Christmas Stocking. She said she never forgot that, and always has tried to pay back the group for its generosity.

"We talked about it as a group" Klemm said of the decision to donate. "A lot of departments (at the Clinic) do something. We knew, even last year, with the economy the way it is, there were going to be more families than usual" in need.

Like many other groups, helping out could become part of their holiday tradition. "We're definitely going to do it again," Klemm said.

To donate to the Christmas Stocking Fund, send contributions to 901 16th Ave., Monroe, WI 53566. A pre-addressed envelope is included inside today's edition of the Times.