Kortney Doumna, Jocelyn Sumner, Sandy Mertesdorf and Ali Carlson show off stockings for Operation GIVE.
Hunts and her students were so moved by Operation Give that Hunts contacted MSU alumna, Megan Anderson (‘02 Health & Human Development), who is the state family and consumer sciences specialist at the Office of Public Instruction in Helena. Anderson used her list serve to contact all the secondary family and consumer science teachers in Montana to see if they would consider having their students participate, too. The response was overwhelming, and students across Montana, from Ft. Belknap to Kalispell, began “sewing like crazy.”
Sandy Mertesdorf, a senior from Litchfield, Minn., used the sewing project as part of her paraprofessional teaching experience with junior high students in Manhattan. She found the project to be an eye opener.
“You don’t really know how much kids know about sewing,” Mertesdorf said. “I found that you have to do everything in a sequence.”
By the middle of November, Hunts sent 400 stockings to Operation Give. Fed Ex partnered with the organization to provide free shipping to the warehouse in Salt Lake City. From there, Operation Give sent four to five ocean containers overseas.
Last year, the organization sent 50 tons of stockings to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and hoped to send even more this year. Stockings are stuffed with everything from personal grooming items and non-perishable foods to guitar picks and yo-yos.
Because the response from family and consumer science students in Montana was so great, the class was able expand their service project to include sending over 125 stockings to in-patients at Seattle veterans’ hospital where former MSU biomechanics professor Mike Hahn now works.
The class also created a Christmas Cranium game to go in the stockings and found area merchants were very willing to donate items for the socks. Additional copies of the Christmas Cranium games were donated to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank to be given out with emergency holiday food boxes.
Members of the class all agreed that the stocking project was a worthwhile experience, both as a service project as well as a teaching project. They also agreed that teaching sewing to a group of young students was harder than they thought.
“We (the class) know how to sew, but it’s hard to teach,” said Carlson. “We’re glad we did it with the 4-H group before trying to teach it in a classroom setting.”
Even though this was a learning experience, one thing is for certain. There were hundreds of American soldiers who enjoyed the fruits of their sewing project and had a little something to remind them that others back home were thinking of them during the holiday season.