Our country’s service men and women are oftentimes stationed far away from their home, family, and friends. This can be especially difficult for them over the holidays. To show those actively serving outside the United States that they are still being thought of and their sacrifice appreciated, the students of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) at Samuel Everitt have once again undertaken a ‘Stockings for Soldiers’ campaign.
The program was started, and is managed by, Shannon Hamilton who is a Bucks IU Intensive Autistic Support Teacher. Shannon wanted to send some holiday cheer to her brother stationed overseas in the Marine Corp and thought of a way to make this a classroom project that would also support the educational needs of her students. Now in its fourth year, this program has expanded from sending just a few dozen stockings, to now creating and distributing a whopping 1,270 stockings! With generosity abounding through donations from far and wide, an additional 13 boxes were also able to be packed up for shipping to
The extraordinary key to this entire project is that the stockings and boxes are all assembled by students with special needs, who provide both the hands and the heart to make this all come together. Along with their teachers and support staff, an assembly line is created with each student assigned a task that best allows them to learn and practice the skills they are being taught at school. From sorting donated items, to making holiday cards, to physically collecting the items and stuffing them into the stockings, everyone is included and an integral part of making this the huge success it has become.
Giving these students an opportunity to participate and show their support has taken the Stocking for Soldiers project to another level of exemplifying a spirit of caring and sharing. The Bucks IU at Samuel Everitt has approximately 120 students who were supported in this enormous endeavor by Bucks IU students from the IU HOPE program as well as students in Autistic Support and Life Skills classes in Bensalem High School, Snyder Middle School, and Mill Creek Elementary School. The students participating ranged in age from Pre-Kindergarten through the age of 21.
Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick stopped by to assist, support, and visit the school he attended as a child. He stated, “It’s great to see the property being put to such good use, see it active and to be here to experience the kids connecting with our troops through this program. I was stationed in Iraq in 2008 and we were the recipients of items from programs like this, and I can tell you that it was appreciated and very uplifting.”
This year’s stockings, and additional boxes, are being sent to troops stationed in both Iraq and the Netherlands. There were 278 boxes of stockings, plus 13 boxes of extra items, for a total of 291 boxes to be sent. The shipping costs (in excess of $3,700) were generously covered by Fore the Troops; a philanthropic organization focused on programs and support of military personnel and their families.
Middletown Township Supervisor Amy Strouse also stopped in to help and said “Coming from a family of Marines, I can feel the joy that our troops will experience when they open these stockings. It’s always great to be able to help with programs like this and experience the kids being able to give back.”
This program’s success is largely due to the support received from a wide variety of businesses and organizations, and this year, donations were also received from Washington DC, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland! We wish to extend our sincere thanks for the generous contributions from these local Pennsylvania Giant Supermarkets (Levittown, Langhorne, Fairless Hills, Feasterville, Morrisville, Southampton) as well as from the Sam’s Club in Langhorne. Our partners/donation sites included the Kiddie Academy (Feasterville), Bensalem Township School District, Neshaminy School District, Bucks IU Administrative Offices in Doylestown, Bucks IU at Lower Southampton, and the Bucks IU Education Foundation.
If you would like to donate to this program for next year, please contact Shannon Hamilton at SHamilton@BucksIU.org.