Stockings for Seneca County’s veterans, 10 years on

Beth Walliser’s Stockings for Veterans Plus 10 program is now in its tenth year, and Walliser said the volunteer work has taught her a great deal about Seneca County and herself.

The project, which intends to provide a stocking full of goodies, a bag of fruit and snacks and a blanket to every Seneca County veteran residing in local assisted living and nursing homes, began in 2009 and was conceived after Walliser received some awful news.

“I came down with cancer, and everybody who receives that diagnosis goes through a moment when they think that they are going to die,” she said.

“I decided I wanted to do something big before I went out.”

But instead of thinking immediately of the typical things on other people’s “bucket lists,” Walliser, who is a member of Tiffin VFW Post 2858, thought immediately of giving back to veterans.

“I always wanted to do something big for our veterans, so I came up with the idea to deliver stockings around Christmas,” she said.

“The first year I did the stockings myself. I didn’t have any help and nobody knew about it, but the gratification I received that first year was so great that I decided as long as the good Lord lets me breathe, I’m going to continue doing this program.”

Walliser has carried out the Stockings for Veterans Plus 10 program every year since, and insists she will continue to do so as long as she is able.

She said she grew up in a military family, that the “military is in her blood.” In the program’s first year she wondered if she’d “gotten in too deep,” with the scope making the project difficult to handle on her own and just $200 from her own pocket to fill the stockings with.

But the humbling feeling she felt when she handed Seneca County’s veterans those stockings the first year convinced her it was work worth doing.

“To be able to give these men and women a gift and thank them for their service, many of them in the final stages of their life, it really means something,” she said.

The Stockings for Veterans Plus 10 program has grown to providing stockings for 110 veterans this year, up from last year’s count of 105. Walliser also has applied for and received a grant from the National VFW Foundation the past three years, money which she has used to buy twin-sized plush blankets for each veteran.

Walliser stressed that anyone from the community can get involved and that you don’t have to be a member of the VFW to contribute to this endeavor.

“We also encourage people who need to complete community service hours to volunteer, and some of our volunteers just do the stocking stuffing or just deliver, and some people prefer to stay in Tiffin,” she said. “There are many who stay the entire day or the whole weekend we’re stuffing stockings and delivering them in-person, though.”

“We’ll take all the help we can get,” she said.

Donations open up today and can be accepted up until the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 19, when Walliser and others will go out and purchase items for the stockings.

“I always try to survey vets for what they’d like in the stockings,” she said. “Things like large-print playing cards and word search books have been really popular. Hairbrushes, which we tried one year, not so much.”

Then volunteers will stuff the stockings from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Tiffin VFW post and enjoy a 10-year anniversary gathering after, complete with cake and punch.

Finally, volunteers will join Walliser Sunday, Dec. 22 to hand-deliver the stockings and blankets across Seneca County and to Seneca County veterans in the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky.

“We make sure we hand-deliver every single stocking, shake their hand and thank them for serving our country,” Walliser said. “Regardless of when you gave your service, we want to thank you.”

Scores of area businesses and residents have donated items, funds and time to the project over the past decade, and Walliser said she tries to encourage new donors and volunteers every year.

“We live in a generous community,” she said. “All that you have to do is look for it.”

As stated above, the Stockings for Veterans Plus 10 program is accepting donations until the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 19. Monetary and stocking item donations can be dropped off at Tiffin VFW Post 2858 until then.

To join the team of volunteers or arrange a donation to the project, Beth Walliser can be contacted directly at (419) 618-0727.