MISSOULA – Volunteers in Missoula teamed up on Sunday to bring gifts to veterans.
The United Veterans Council of Missoula and Ravalli Counties passed out stockings filled with gifts, blankets and cards made by local knitters and school children.
Susan Campbell Reneau and her husband Jack started the Santa Socks project to give back to veterans in the community.
They have teamed up with other organizations to deliver handmade hats, blankets and scarves as well as hand-written cards.
Gold star mother Alice McGraw’s son died in 1969 while serving as a helicopter door gunner in Vietnam.
“That was the last time I saw my son. He was home for Christmas and went to Vietnam in January, and was killed in April,” McGraw recalled.
“And then I had a 17-year-old son that was also killed in an auto accident on Christmas Eve. So Christmas is a happy time and a very sad time,” she added.
McGraw plans to use the blanket given to her on Sunday on her chairlift at the nursing home where she lives.
The group of elves sang Christmas songs and passed out the gifts to rooms full of veterans.
Wraps for Vets volunteer Joan Dodge says the blankets keep everyone warm and bring comfort to the people using them.
“You should’ve seen the faces on the ones that we’ve already given out. One man that was away from the group — and I went over to him — and he just cried,” Dodge told MTN News. “It just means a lot to them to know that they’re being remembered.”
Dodge says these will be some people’s only gifts this year.
She originally intended to make about 50 items, but ended up with over 700 with the help of Martha’s Ministry and other knitters and crocheters.
Santa — also known as a retired US Air Force veteran Scott Wold, said the visits mean a lot to veterans.
“It means everything to me — you know it. The majority of my life was spent serving, and like I said people paved that dirt path and I was able to do the same,” Wold said.
“Now the next generation’s coming up behind me, so its kinda interesting and fun to watch. I just hope when I’m a little older somebody will do that for me too, added Wold who served in the Armed Forces for 20 years.
McGraw also recalled a visit from Santa’s elves about five years ago.
“He had a tiny little coffee mug that said Steelers on it…I have it on my stand now. I was hoping Iwould get to see him today. He couldn’t believe that I remembered his name, I’ll never forget Jack Reneau,” she said.
“I just want to thank Jack and all of these people that came and sang. They are all wonderful, they’ve done an awful lot of work for the veterans, and I’m glad they include me as a Gold Star mother,” McGraw added.
The volunteers made over 750 deliveries to nursing and retirement homes, homeless shelters and businesses this year.
-Katie Miller reporting for MTN News