By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 5, 2008 - A little piece of Christmas has started to arrive in Iraq and Afghanistan for troops away from home during the holidays. Operation Give's annual Operation Christmas Stocking collection has sent more than 20,000 Christmas stockings to troops -- with more on the way.
"Even in hard times, if we can find a way to help support our troops, we do," Paul Holton, founder and president of Operation Give, said. "Something as simple as a Christmas stocking is easy for people to handle. They stuff these stockings, knowing their little act of kindness is going to improve troop morale."
Operation Give, a Salt Lake City-based troop-support group, has had a "steady stream" of Christmas stockings coming in from all over the nation since they announced the event in the media and on their Web site earlier this year, Holton said. FedEx has provided free shipping of stockings to the group's warehouse. This is the fourth year the group has sponsored the stocking drive.
"Thousands and thousands of pre-stuffed stockings have been sent in, with the greatest stuff imaginable for our men and women serving in the military, in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Elaine Ward, an assistant at Operation Give. Some of the items included disposable cameras, flashlights, harmonicas, clip-on lights, prepaid calling cards, playing cards, dominos, CDs and DVDs.
Operation Give volunteers also have stuffed stockings.
"We have had a great number of local citizens volunteer to stuff stockings for several hours, each Friday night," Ward said. "We have stuffed and boxed up hundreds and hundreds of stockings, large and small, some weighing over 30 pounds."
Throughout the year, Operation Give sends care packages to troops, as well as soccer balls, toys and school supplies to be distributed to local children. The group has more than 150 pallets of care packages they plan to send soon to troops.
"We ship all of it so they can either use the donations or distribute it to the people, helping them to win their hearts and minds," Holton said. "Through this effort, they can build bridges that span over all the misunderstandings and hate that exists in the world, in hopes that the people might change their perspective of us and what we are trying to accomplish."