Holiday stocking program continues into 26th year

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

VALLEY — Ray Edwards spent much of Tuesday in the back room of Timeless Antiques Flea Mall.

Years ago, he spent a lot of time back there when he was the manager of the Winn Dixie grocery store. It was the stock room at that time.

“I can remember the district manager asked me what my job was,” he recalled with a laugh. “I told him a big part of it was public relations.”

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Having good public relations skills helped him throughout his career. He was elected to multiple terms on the Valley City Council and is now the chairman of the Alabama Department of Senior Services. When asked why he works so hard on behalf of seniors, he likes to borrow a phrase from his good friend State Sen. Gerald Dial, “because I am one.”

For the past 26 years, he and wife Jackie have been swamped this time of year getting together Christmas stockings for hundreds of local seniors. On Tuesday, he was back in the stock room packing fruit, candy and small gifts into 270 stockings.

Edwards’ 9-year-old great-grandson Gavin Walden landed a hand Tuesday, as he has been promoted from an elf to one of Santa’s main helpers, Timeless Antiques owner Carol Presher, Al Daughtrey and Debra Riley also helped.

They were putting 3,000 pieces of candy, 1,400 candy canes, 1,000 apples and 1,000 oranges in those stockings along with a signed Christmas card and a small gift.

“This is my favorite time of year,” Edwards said. “I appreciate so much the help I’ve gotten in getting the stockings ready. I especially appreciate Carol’s help. This has been a difficult year for her with her husband Jim passing away earlier this year.”

Keeping Carol company these days is her beloved companion Toc, a 2-year-old Sharpei mix that’s very friendly toward everyone.

“The kids love to help him,” Presher said. “This has been a wonderful day for all of us.”

Something new this year is that stockings will be taken to the LaFayette Senior Center, which is located near the fire department in downtown LaFayette.

“We will be taking 25 stockings there on Thursday,” Edwards said. “We’ll first be stopping by the Lanett Senior Center, where we will be leaving 45 stockings.”

Friday will be the big day. At 10:30 a.m. more than 120 stockings will be going out on the buses bound for home-bound seniors in Valley. Another 45 stockings will be given out at the annual Christmas stocking program at Valley Senior Center.

Edwards will also be going to Sylvia Word Manor, where he will visit each resident and present them with a stocking filled with goodies.

“We love visiting them all,” he said. “Me and Gavin may be there for four hours.”

They will also be making stops at Lanier Nursing Home and Valley Park Manor assisted living.

“We start planning the next Christmas stocking program the day after Christmas,” Edwards said. “It takes a year of planning to have it done right.”

Edwards said it is truly moving to ride on one of the city buses and visit with homebound residents.

“It really gets to you to see how some elderly people are living,” he said. “Anyone who sees this knows that there’s a lot of need out there.”