Church ladies stuff stockings for soldiers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just call them members of Santa’s ladies auxiliary.

After all, he has his elves, so it would only stand to reason the big guy in red would need a little help from the Hopewell Baptist Church’s ladies ministry to make sure the nation’s soldiers got Christmas stockings filled with goodies.

During phase one of the project, the ladies cut and sewed 155 Christmas stockings, filled them with an assortment of items and shipped them to Afghanistan. Phase two was the baking and shipping of 165 dozen cookies.

“We had heard about a similar project from a ladies ministry in Eufaula,” said Joyce Godwin, a Hopewell ladies ministry member. “We knew we had to do something, too.”

Godwin said the group collected personal items such as lotions, hand sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioners, razors, Chap-Sticks, reading materials, puzzle books, games, and food items like peanuts, canned meats and snack crackers.

“We also included plastic Ziploc bags so that items could be kept free of sand,” she said. “And for that special touch, the ladies cut and sewed 155 Christmas stockings and shipped them to be filled with these personal items and distributed.”

Godwin said each stocking had a yellow ribbon as a hanger to “remind these men and women that they are remembered.”

“Our goal was to get these items to soldiers serving in remote areas,” she said. “We were fortunate to make contact with an officer assigned to visit these forward operating bases (FOBs), and these bases generally either don’t have base/post exchange facilities, or the items available at the exchange are very limited.

“Most often these personal items have to be obtained at the Afghani or Iraqi local market at extremely high cost,” she said.

Godwin said 25 flat rate boxes were filled for shipping and distribution at the FOB. Shipping costs were provided by the Hopewell Men’s Sunday School class and by a donation from John Givhan.

“The second phase of the project was to send homemade cookies — 165 dozen to be exact,” she said. “They were baked, bagged and packed in 31 large flat rate postal boxes and shipped to our contact for distribution.”

So how does one ship so many cookies and ensure they don’t arrive at their destination in crumbs?

“Very carefully,” Godwin said. “There’s a secret. The preparation process for shipping is very time consuming. The key is that the interior of the boxes has to be padded. You put six cookies bottom to bottom in a plastic bag and secured with a twist tie and placed in the box.

“Each shipping box will hold from 5 to 7 dozen cookies, depending on the size of the cookies,” she said. “Then packing materials have to be placed on top of the cookies to further protect them. All openings are sealed with packing tape to help keep the cookies fresh.”

Godwin said a customs form must be completed for each box shipped, and then they’re ready for the post office.

“I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it is a very worthy and rewarding project,” she said. “These men and women are out there putting their lives on the line for us. The least we can do is make sure they have Christmas cookies to eat.”