For several years, Betty Houston, a retired educator from Semmes, has played Santa Claus to hundreds of Mobile County children. Actually, Betty usually wears reindeer antlers instead of a red velvet suit decorated with white fur. And her laugh is more often a smile than a Ho! Ho! Ho! And she doesn't smoke a pipe.
Betty calls her program "Stuff the Stockings" and with a little help from friends she fills mostly handmade stockings with such items as crayons and pencils, knit caps and gloves, maybe a small toy.
Last year, she and her elves delivered more than 300 of the stockings to Semmes area elementary school children (She's quick to give credit to other contributors and volunteers.)
The stockings go to K-5th grade students in Mary G Montgomery feeder schools. Most of the children are classified as homeless. In addition, some 50 migrant students were included and about 15 pre-K Head Start children received presents.
This year, several individuals and organizations are pitching in fill the 12" to 15" stockings.
On November 12, 6-8 p.m., women from First Baptist of Semmes and Christ United Methodist Church, along with Shree Lovett, chair of National Day of Prayer and "her ladies" will gather at the Semmes Baptist Fellowship Hall for a light supper of soup and salad before the stuffing party. The attendance is expected to be 75-100 and donations of desserts would be appreciated.
Betty starts collecting items right after Christmas to fill the next year's stockings.
"I get so excited when I find a 70% to 90% off things that are already on sale," she said.
Betty asked that those who plan to attend this Stocking Ministry event on November 12th RVSP at 251-649-2319, the office number for Semmes First Baptist Church.
Following is a list of suggested (new) items (donations are not restricted to these): knit hats, knit gloves, pairs of socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, small stuffed animals, small toys and coloring books for children in K-3rd grade. For older students, notebooks or game books, colored pencils or markers, pens and pencils and a little something extra (optional.) Betty also accepts donations of cash for items not included above.