Visalia Emergency Aid Council seeks donations to fill stockings for children in need
VISALIA – Reaching into a stocking stuffed with small surprises is one of the great joys of Christmas morning. The magic of Santa’s race around the world in a single night, the simplicity of an oversized fuzzy sock hanging from the mantle and the endless variations of cultural traditions on items put into the stocking is a truly American mix of Christmas past, present and future.
It’s a tradition that Kathleen Dowling has not only shared with her own family but children from countless other families as part of the Visalia Emergency Aide Council (VEAC) Stocking drive. Dowling has been a part of the stocking drive since taking it over in the fall of 1999 when she took over for the volunteer who began the tradition. But instead of making handmade stockings to be filled at the VEAC’s annual event, Dowling started a new tradition of asking the community for assistance in filling the stockings.
Dowling’s parents had always raised she and her brothers to help others whenever possible, and filling the stockings seemed the perfect way to expand her holiday giving.
Each December, children and families served by VEAC in Visalia, Goshen and Ivanhoe are screened and given tickets to attend the Holiday Event. All members of the family receiving the gifts, stockings, food and other resources are required to attend the event.
“If you could see the faces of the children as they receive their stockings on Christmas Eve morning you would understand why I have continued to work on this project all these years,” Dowling said.
The first year that she gave out the stockings Dowling especially liked the fact that the European tradition was now being passed onto new generations of immigrants from Southeast Asia and South America.
“It is one of the things that she found most special about America,” she said. “As each immigrant comes here they bring their own traditions from their country and add them to our culture and then take on some of the traditions from the immigrants that have gone before them.”
The preparing and the giving of the stockings to these children is also a wonderful lesson for them. Dowling said many of these children find it amazing that someone who doesn’t know them would take the time and money to prepare something for them with no expectation of anything in return. These children come from some of the poorest families in Tulare County and struggle on a daily basis to survive. Many of these families would have no Christmas without the help and assistance of the VEAC.
If you are handy with needle and thread, Dowling said the VEAC is looking for people to use up odds and ends of fabric that to make the stockings so that they do not have to purchased. VEAC is asking that once created, the stockings be filled for boys or girls from newborns to 16 year olds.
“Some families have used it as a lesson in giving for their children by taking them to the Dollar Store and having them fill a stocking for child their own age,” Dowling said. “Many of these children will only receive the stocking and a small gift as their only Christmas gift this year which is amazing to many of the children who receive loads of gifts each year.”
Some suggested items include small pieces of jewelry, dress-up accessories for little girls, makeup, nail polish, gift cards, wallets, socks, scarfs, mittens, knit caps, slippers, toys, games, kites, coloring books, workbooks, pens, pencils, drawing pads, crayons, watercolor sets, construction paper, reading books, craft books, novels, small electronic games, jump ropes, small balls, washable markers, (no permanent markers), dolls, stuffed toys, plastic action figures, farm animal sets, baby bottles, pacifiers, booties, baby blankets, PEZ dispensers, or “pretty much anything will make someone happy!”
Arrangements can be made to pick these items up no matter how small or how large the donation from you at work or at home by calling the VEAC at 559-732-0101 or by emailing [email protected]. The VEAC will also provide tags that can be attached to the stockings to indicate if it is intended for a girl or boy and a specific age. The stockings can also be dropped off at Maverick’s Coffee House, Horine Chiropractic Office, The Chrystal Barn, and the Visalia Emergency Aide Office and Thrift Store. As always, you can call Dowling at 559-781-7823.