NORTHERN PANHANDLE - Ohio Valley residents are sending some holiday joy and a little comfort from home to soldiers serving overseas this season in the form of Christmas stockings filled with treats and necessities.
"This is the second year we are doing this," said Alex Kepner, director of Kepner's Funeral Home on Kruger Street in Wheeling and founder of the Stockings For Soldiers charity effort. "We had a lot of success last year, and this year looks like it will be just as good."
Kepner outlined the way the Stockings for Soldiers program works: "We buy empty stockings and keep them here. People pick them up, fill them, and then bring them back."
The collection box for the Stockings For Soldiers charity program is displayed at the Marshall County Clerk’s Office. Deadline for donations is Friday.
Kepner then packs the stockings and coordinates with soldiers from the Ohio Valley who are serving overseas to ship the stockings and have them distributed among servicemen and women.
According to Kepner, 432 stockings were filled and sent last year, filling 20-25 boxes. This year, even more stockings were distributed at the beginning of November.
Kepner said that this year's contribution should exceed last year's, as long as the remaining stockings are returned by Nov. 30.
Denise Doyle of the Marshall County Clerk's Office was inspired by Kepner's effort when she and her daughter, Cody Doyle, got wind of it and started a collection at the Marshall County Courthouse.
For Doyle, the Stockings for Soldiers idea also has personal significance.
She said she has a daughter and a son-in-law currently serving in the military overseas.
"We want to make it a nice Christmas for them," said Doyle.
So far, a box has been kept in the county clerk's office for people to drop off items, but Doyle said she wants to provide more opportunities to give.
"I'm going to put a box in the hallway in case the public really wants to get involved," Doyle added.
Kepner welcomed the community participation.
"I think this is a good program because it gives people a chance to participate in a good cause," said Kepner.
Donations are still being accepted at the Marshall County Courthouse and Kepner's Funeral Home at 166 Kruger St., Wheeling. Donations most needed include small personal items such as deodorant, soap, shaving and cosmetic supplies, snacks, trinkets, games, etc. The deadline for donations is Friday.
For more information, call Kepner at 304-242-2311.