In 2009, a widow named Suzi from Cross Lutheran Church in New Braunfels, Texas, wanted to do something to help the girls at New Life Children’s Center in Canyon Lake. This Christian organization is dedicated to helping girls who are abused, abandoned, and neglected and are between 11 and 18 years old. Suzi had little money, but she did have a talent for hand sewing, so she offered to make a Christmas stocking for every girl at New Life, including embroidering their names on the stockings.
The offer was happily accepted. Suzi went to work buying up leftover Christmas stocking kits at the after-Christmas sales, and arranging for the local embroidery shop to add the names. The stockings were marked 70 percent off, so it was well within her budget, and the embroidery shop promised a very good price for embroidering individual names on the stockings. Suzi then reported back to the Director of Christian Education (DCE) at her church about her progress on the stockings. That’s when reality hit: instead of the 20 girls Suzi had planned for, she found out there were 60 girls who lived at New Life! She went into a tailspin … realizing that she needed help and needed it fast! Suzi had promised a stocking for every girl and she would now have to provide them. She prayed for God’s guidance.
Suzi had many connections –with friends from college and the Air Force, and after 25 years of showing dogs, she had contacts located all over the United States. She emailed them all, and through their help and selfless effort, obtained financial help to pay for the embroidery, and was able to complete all the stockings.
Most of the New Life girls come to the center with only the clothes on their backs. For many, the Christmas stockings were the first time they had something that was truly theirs, with their name on it to prove it. Suzi’s hope was that through this gift the girls would see the love of Jesus Christ, and realize that not all adults are cruel and uncaring.
The girls were surprised and thrilled with their stockings. They loved that their names were on the stockings – and that they were spelled correctly! Suzi was also surprised when the story was picked up by the local newspaper and it generated community support. This became important when the project grew to its present number of 80 new stockings each year.
One past resident returned to New Life this year, and she brought her stocking back with her. She told the new girls about the “Grandmas” who made the stockings and that they could expect to get their own stockings with their names on them. She told them how she loved hers and how much it meant to her. The girls oohed and aahed at the stocking, and are now happily awaiting the arrival of their own stockings.
The Stocking Project Multiplies
The stocking project has grown to include more stocking-makers and this year we had 50 volunteers, with help from Grace Lutheran Church in San Marcos and many others in New Braunfels and Wimberley. Together we created more than 200 stockings for Christian organizations! We work both in groups and alone, and hand out stocking kits to others, including Reta Wehring, who has severe COPD and is homebound in South Austin. Reta faithfully completes stockings for us each year and does beautiful work – right from her heart and home. We call ourselves “grannies” but we actually have a few teenagers helping out.
We really like the idea of “exporting” this project to other churches and communities; with five years of experience behind us, we have probably made most of the mistakes! Suzi, who started this all, is our “recruiter,” and she plans to recruit in and around San Antonio. The stocking project has already been passed along by one of the Wimberley women to a friend in Canada who is launching it for “Youth Without Shelter.” God’s love keeps on going!
Grandmas’ Stocking Guild incorporated this summer, and we are applying for 501c(3) status. The good folks atLogos to Go in New Braunfels do the embroidery at a great price, which probably just covers their materials. They work after hours and turn over the stockings in a very short time in December. Once we are officially a nonprofit we will be able to raise funds and donations from other groups.
This work proves what can be done when one person like Suzi opens her heart to help children in need. It started as such a small project, but it can mean so much to those it touches with the Love of Christ.