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Spring 2009

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Tons of Stockings, Literally

Holly Hunts, associate professor in family and consumer sciences education/extension, is a firm believer in using community service projects to enrich her methods of teaching class. Every month, she and her students focus on a new community service project.

“We needed to do a sewing project this semester, so we got online and began to research different charities that might fit,” said Allison Carlson, a senior from Chicago.

After searching on the internet, they came across an organization called Operation Give, based in Salt Lake City.

“...this was a perfect way to combine a hands-on learning experience with a service learning project...”

“They do a big Christmas project where they send stuffed stockings to soldiers and toys for the soldiers to give to Iraqi and Afghan children,” said Hunts.  “This cheers the troops and makes their stay safer by promoting good will with the local children and parents.”

With over 100,000 American troops away from home serving in the Middle East this past holiday season, the need for stockings was great.  When Hunts’ class checked with Operation Give, they found they had a tremendous need for the stockings.

Kortney Douma, a senior from Manhattan, Mont., said people are always willing to donate items for the socks, but someone needed to make the socks.

The class decided it was time to sew. The methods of teaching class also runs a 4-H club called the Dag Nabids.  Hunts knew this was a perfect way to combine a hands-on learning experience with a service learning project for both her class and the 4-H club.

Photo of the stockings made for soldiers.
Stockings decorate the fireplace in Herrick Hall Lounge.

“My students needed practice teaching sewing,” said Hunts, “and it is much harder (to teach) than one might imagine.  My students learned a ton from this project.”


Photo of students with stockings for soldiers.
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.

For more information on Family & Consumer Sciences programs at MSU, go to:

or contact the Department of Health and Human Development at:

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