Kepner Funeral Homes helped to send more than 450 Christmas stockings to U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan to help improve their morale and extend holiday good wishes.
For the second consecutive year, Kepner sponsored "Stockings for Soldiers" and, through the generosity of the Wheeling community, surpassed last year's goal.
"I am always amazed at the support and kindness of local citizens to support and recognize the commitment of our nation's soldiers," said Alex Kepner, manager at Kepner Funeral Homes and organizer of the local "Stockings for Soldiers" event. "We never imagined surpassing last year's 432 stockings, but in fact we had well over 450 donated stockings this year."
Navy Lt. Junior Grade Michelle Conner, top center left, and fellow soldiers of the Regional Support Command South in Kandahar, Afghanistan, show off their stockings and extend their appreciation for the “Stockings for Soldiers” program.
Kepner connected with his high school friend, Army Spc. Damien Gabis, and another local soldier, Navy Lt. Junior Grade Michelle Conner, online. Gabis, son of Dr. Joseph and Barbara Gabis of Wheeling, is working with Special Forces training in the province of Paktya, Afghanistan.
Conner, daughter of Michael and Brenda Conner of Wheeling, is serving with the Regional Support Command South, part of the NATO training mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The two soldiers served as the contact for the shipment and were charged distributing the stockings throughout their units.
"We asked the community to pick up an empty stocking at any of our funeral home locations and individuals came and picked them up, filled them with everything from toothpaste to electronic hand-held games and we shipped them to Damien and Michelle," said Kepner.
Troops were clearly appreciative of the Wheeling community's big-heartedness as Damien Gabis posted on his Facebook page, "Holy mail! Just a lump sum lottery of goodies! Also a massive amount of stockings donated by the Ohio Valley community via Kepner Funeral Home! Thanks baby, Mom and Dad, Alex and the whole Kepner family and Wheeling community!"