Published Date Written by Tom EastmanCUTLINES
Kendra Stanley (left) and brother Jeremy Gibbs (right) are shown with fellow volunteers Sonia and Monica Belkin. Gibbs is a Marine Corps veteran. They are shown at the third annual “Socks for Soldiers” volunteer effort at the White Mountain Hotel and Resort Nov. 18. (TOM EASTMAN PHOTO)
CONWAY — Approximately 60 volunteers spent their Sunday stuffing Christmas “Socks for Soldiers” at the White Mountain Hotel and Resort.
“We stuffed 1,200 socks. Our goal was to double last year's effort, which would have been 500 more socks, but we actually increased the total by 700,” said coordinator Leslie Gibbs, a nurse at the Conway Veterans Clinic.
Gibbs, who is herself an Air Force veteran, launched the effort in September, 2010, after speaking with former state Sen. Joe Kenney of Wakefield, who is a U.S. Marine Lt. Col. and veteran of the Iraq war.
“My son, Jeremy, was serving in Afghanistan as a Lance Corporal at the time. I asked Sen. Kenney how he felt we could help, and this is what he thought we could do — to send items in holiday stockings over from home for the holidays,” said Gibbs.
This year's total of 1,200 adds to the 1,066 soldiers served in the first two years.
Last year, volunteers used the Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center to stuff and pack socks.
This year's shipment will go to two Marine battalions serving in Afghanistan, a small Army unit serving on the front line in Afghanistan, and a group of nurses.
Service people from the Mount Washington Valley and western Maine are among those serving, according to Gibbs.
“We have to thank the White Mountain Hotel and Grant's Supermarket, the Material Girls, and all the volunteers,” said Gibbs.
“Starr Moore of the Material Girls helped appropriate all the material this year. Royetta Reuning donated material for the first 4,500 socks the first year, and helped last year, too,” said Gibbs.
Monica Bellevue helped coordinate getting materials from other resources, while those helping with the sewing included Lola Layne, Sheila Gormley, Maggie Graves, Joan McGovern and Fran Cook.
The Material Girls on July 24 finished up their sewing tasks at the Church of Christ in Conway.
Gibbs said volunteers stuffed the socks in the hotel's ballroom from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Many were then treated to a pre-stuffing brunch by the White Mountain Hotel staff.
Donated items included Q-tips, tooth paste, deodorant, boot length socks, peanuts, drink mixes, playing cards, small games, caps, snack bars, energy bars, and candy bars.
The items were shipped by the North Conway UPS Store.
“Tom Davidson of the UPS Store matches me for half the cost. The items left Tuesday. They are sent to New York City, then overseas,” sad Gibbs Tuesday.
The campaign sold Socks for Soldiers fund-raising stars for $1 and $2 at local businesses throughout the summer and fall. Patrons have their names written onto the stars, which are then displayed at participating businesses. The program also offers an “adopt a box” camapign, under which individuals and businesses may purchase UPS boxes for $30, $40 or $50 which are used to ship items.
Gibbs said the North Conway Rotary Club has also lent assistance by donating items. Store managers from Walgreen's four regional stores all participated, as did volunteers from Redstone Variety.
Also lending support has been the Dollar Tree, the Local Bookie, and many other restaurants and businesses.
Another business that has been helpful is Route 302 Steakhouse in Fryeburg, Maine, and Tuckerman's Brewery. The restaurant features an American Hero Sandwich and beer special — for every $10 sandwich that is sold, Socks for Soldiers gets $2, and if customers buy a sandwich and a beer, they get a 50 cent discount and they get to keep the mug.
Anyone wishing to donate funds toward the effort throughout the year may write: Socks for Soldiers, c/o North Conway UPS Store, P.O.Box 5002, North Conway 03860.