Christmas Stocking Week celebrates 30th year

Published 11:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2022

VALLEY — Christmas Stocking Week in Valley, Lanett and LaFayette is the 30th year Ray Edwards and his family have done this for local seniors.

On Monday, a group of Timeless Antiques vendors helped Edwards fill 350 red and white stockings and have them ready to take to senior centers in the three cities and to Sylvia Word Manor.

Each bag his filled with apples, oranges, candy canes, two coffee containing soft and hard peppermint candy and some chocolate.

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“We also have some hand sanitizer, pencils, ballpoint pens, a pair of slip-proof stocks and a LED flashlight,” Edwards said. “We forgot to get batteries for the flashlight. I had to buy several hundred of them and put them into 350 flashlights.”

The bags were filled in Edwards’ old stomping grounds. The backroom at Timeless Antiques was once a cold storage area for a Winn-Dixie Supermarket in the 1980s, and Edwards was the store manager at the time.

“This is like a home away from home. Being back here brings back a lot of memories,” he said. “I couldn’t do this without my Timeless Antiques family. I used to do it in our garage at home in Todd Addition. With my family’s help, it would take several weeks to get them all filled. The Timeless crew can fill all the bags in a little over an hour.”

One member of the crew, Kathy Smith, did something special this year. Her mother taught her to crochet when she was a young girl. She used that skill to make a total of 100 Afghans to give to the seniors.

“She started in January and had made 100 of them by October,” said her husband, Mike Smith.

At 10:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Edwards made his first Santa stop at the Lanett Senior Center. Accompanying him were his great-grandchildren. Thirteen-year-old Gavin Walden portrayed Santa Claus He really took to being dressed in the Santa suit with the long, white beard. The seniors couldn’t help wanting to hug seven-year-old Ky Yates and stepsister Addy Morgan when they gave out their share of stockings.

“This is my 30th year of doing this,” Edwards told the seniors. “It is such a blessing to me to do it. My wife Jackie and I started this in 1992. I was on the Valley City Council at the time. We didn’t know how long we could continue to do it, but it has made Christmas more special to us as the years have gone by.”

Edwards thanked Mayor Jamie Heard for the job he is doing in Lanett. “All of my grandkids had you as a teacher, and they all thought a lot of you,” he said.

The mayor thanked the seniors present for participating in the senior center program and thanked manager Sandra Thornton for the job she is doing with the program.

“Every time he does this, Ray Edwards is getting a star in heaven,” senior center participant Herschel Allen said. “He does it because he loves people, and we all love him.”

Thornton said that people should consider making donations to a Christmas stocking fund to help defer the cost of having it every year.

Edwards does much of his purchasing after each Christmas season when the prices are lower. This year, though, inflation has taken a bite out of everything.

“I want to thank Ray and his great-grandchildren for coming here today,” Mayor Heard said. “I wish each one of you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We want you to be happy.”

Edwards left Lanett a little past 11 a.m. bound for LaFayette. In LaFayette’s downtown center he was joined by two more of his great-grandchildren, Trenter and McKenzie Johnson.

They joined Gavin, Addy and Ky in giving out the Christmas stockings. Mayor Kenneth Vines and members of the city council were there to welcome Edwards and his great-grandkids and to thank them for keeping LaFayette seniors in mind.

A 1 p.m. on Wednesday, a Christmas stocking program took place at Sylvia Word Manor. Approximately 50 stockings were distributed to residents, and everyone had a great time in the Sylvia Word community room, which is beautifully decorated with Dolly Knickerbocker’s gorgeous Christmas trees.

The grand finale was held on Thursday morning when a large number of stockings will be given to participants in the Valley Senior Center program. More will be going out on three senior center buses that deliver food each day to the city’s homebound seniors.

Edwards served for 28 years on the city council and is now the board chair of the Alabama Department of Senior Services, which supplies meals to senior centers throughout the state.

“I would like to keep doing this as long as I can,” he said. “Sharing Christmas joy and giving to others is what this time of year is all about.”