There’s still time to donate to the Reformer Christmas Stocking, one of the truly perfect forms of charitable giving. The money collected each year is 100% for the Stocking with the exception of a small fee for post office box rental. It’s a very simple operation: funds are raised; warm winter clothing is purchased; warm winter clothing is distributed. The committee of volunteers has developed an efficient system that reflects the true community effort that is the Stocking. The whole town gets involved. Children who need clothing are identified by social service systems that pass the referrals to the Stocking committee. The best job in the operation, for me, is the opportunity to help out with the actual distribution. It’s so enjoyable because of the high quality of jackets, pants, boots, gloves and hats. It’s a kick to help kids of all ages pick out really cool things from the many boxes lined up at the distribution center. Purple is always the favorite color in anything, and there is lots of purple available. However there was one family with two boys, who loved to dress alike in everything orange and the mom confided to me that it worked for her because she could always find them in a crowd.

It was always a kick to watch the newspaper’s staff get involved with the yearly drive.  When the goal is decided upon, there were the usual comments that the amount is way too high and “we’re never going to make it this year.” It’s part of the ritual. The goal has never been missed.

The money, much of it accompanied by poignant messages, starts dribbling in right after Thanksgiving. Memorials are for cherished grandparents, those serving in the military, beloved pets, children and parents lost too soon. There are always donations from “A Nony Mouse.”  

One year, a man we knew as being in trouble with the law was reportedly renting a ski house in the area. He sent in $50 to the Stocking. He couldn’t have been all bad. 

As the money comes in, everything must be typed up and added up and only one person can do that monumental task. Pat Smith has been doing the job since the ‘80s and for the last six years has been handling all the money and listings. She says she has gotten to know the handwriting of some faithful donors.

And then there is the Secret Santa. I remember the first year he snuck in the day before Christmas, dropped off the check to put us over the top, and slipped out again before anyone realized what had happened. The news flew through the building. That was in 1999 and the check was for $15,000. Since then he (and that’s all we know about him; he’s a he) has slipped in just before Christmas and handed over a check. He’s done it every year since although in the past few years he has cut back to $10,000. There are a few theories about his identity but most of the staff members don’t really want to know who he is. 

"But I heard him explain e're he drove out of sight, Happy Christmas to all and to all a good-night.