Franklin — While some are hanging stockings by the chimney with care, others are shipping stockings overseas.

Through the Stockings for Soldiers program, soldiers around the world and close to home receive stockings filled with candy, card games, and essentials. This community-wide effort is led by Max A. Sass and Sons Funeral Homes, who started the project around five years ago.

"We're letting them know that they're appreciated in all their efforts for what they do for their country," said Greg Fischer, a funeral director for Max Sass in Franklin.

When they first started the project, Fischer said they received donations of 500 or 600 stockings, but since then "it's really taken off."

This year, over 1,600 stockings will go out from the Milwaukee area to soldiers currently serving overseas, stationed in the United States, or who have returned home. Of those stockings, 40 come from Franklin High School, who just started supporting the program this year.

Stockings at school

The high school's Best Buddies program took on the project this year, asking for donations from students earlier this month and then getting together on Dec. 12 to decorate and fill the stockings.

More than just forging connections with those who serve, Best Buddies' stocking stuffing night was also an opportunity for the students to form connections between special education students and their non-disabled classmates, which is the focus of the buddies program.

"Best Buddies is about promoting friendships between students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and regular students," explained the group's student president, Hattie Harmeyer.

That night, the students got together with their buddies to fill the stockings with handfuls of candy, decks of cards, shampoo, batteries, ChapStick, and crossword books, all items on the Stockings for Soldiers shopping list.

"We like to try to get involved in the community," said Harmeyer. "We like to give back. We picked this up this year to do something with the holiday spirit."

Season's greeting

In the hectic holiday season, Fischer finds it particularly important that we are thinking of those who serve.

"It's important to let (veterans and soldiers) know that we're thinking about them this time of year, and that we appreciate them," Fischer said. "And to wish them a Merry Christmas, of course."

Fischer is also one of the people who goes to local veteran's homes or to the Veterans Hospital, and can say with certainty that they appreciate the gifts.

"We get a big thanks from the people that we're giving them to," Fischer said.

The Stockings for Soldiers effort focuses on reaching everyone, and Fischer added they've also given out canine stockings in the past though Operation K9 Solider Treats. Soon, Fischer's son will also be added to the list of stocking recipients – he will be joining the U.S. Navy after high school graduation.

"It kind of gives a new meaning to all these programs I've be doing throughout the years," Fischer said.

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