This fall, members of Operation Support Our Troops America (OSOT-America) are on a mission. They intend to fill and send 5,000 hand-sewn holiday stockings to military men and women serving in harm’s way overseas.  Last week they were more than half way there.

Nancy Baier, affectionately known as “Head Elf” of the Christmas Stocking Workshops, comes from Libertyville to volunteer.

Baier knows from close personal experience how much care packages are appreciated. In recent years, one of her son’s served two tours of duty in Iraq and another son served in Afghanistan. Her husband is an Army reservist who served in both countries.

During a recent PN visit to the workshop, Baier indicated that she can use “some more elves” to help stuff stockings from 10AM-1PM on Thursdays and 11AM-1PM on Saturdays through Nov. 1, in order to have the stockings ready to be sent in time for the holidays.

To be an OSOT-America volunteer simply requires signing up for membership. There is no membership fee.

“On Saturday, October 13, students from Naperville Central High School have signed up for a shift,” said Betty Krupp, Vice President of the OSOT-America Board of Directors.

Meanwhile, Krupp added, OSOT is always looking for businesses, schools, churches and service organizations to help with collections of much-needed items to pack for the military all year round.

“We also hope some volunteers will sew stockings year round,” said Baier. “We have a simple pattern that I can send upon request.”

A discussion followed about the after-holiday season when “holiday” fabrics would be reduced in price—a good time to stock up on fabric for stockings that could be sewn throughout the year in plenty of time for the 2013 Christmas season.

Currently blank and signed Christmas cards are a requested need to include with the stockings. Krupp asked that signed cards not be dated. The blank cards can be used by the troops to send greetings back to their families.

After the stockings are stuffed with treats in one room, they are  assembled with several other items and packed into plastic bags by volunteers in the kitchen area.  Volunteers John Stevenson and Michelle Kurtz were helping the day PN visited.

When ready to send, every package includes information about OSOT-America,  greeting cards, stationery and pens, along with the stuffed stocking filled with  a variety  of donated goodies, an ornament and a wrapped gift.

During the visit, Krupp introduced Michele Hilger, the sales consultant for St. Benedict, who had helped OSOT-America arrange the space at no charge. The Stocking Workshop had started in a garage three years ago and the initiative now has taken over the entire condominium with work stations in several rooms for stuffing, packing and sorting.

The young woman from Naperville said she’s always amazed at the well-organized production every time she stops by for a visit.

Then Hilger added, “When I was growing up, I always thought of veterans as older citizens. But now veterans are my age—and many are my friends.”

To sign up to volunteer, to request a stocking pattern, or for directions to the stocking workshop, e-mail Baier at stockings4troops@osotamerica.org.

For more information about all the work of OSOT-America, visit www.osotamerica.org.

TOP PHOTO CAPTION: Volunteers BETTY KRUPP and KEVIN KRAUSE held up a banner behind “Head Elf” NANCY BAIER and BARB STEVENSON, left front, SHAROL SHEARER and MICHELE HILGER. Volunteers are scheduled during packing days at Villa St. Benedict in Lisle where year-round space has been donated for the project.

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