The HUGS Project of Elkhart

Volunteers send a Group HUG to troops overseas

November 18, 2011

Volunteers send a Group HUG to troops overseas
THE GOSHEN NEWS The Goshen News Fri Nov 18, 2011, 11:30 AM EST

GOSHEN — Christmas will come a little early for our troops in the Middle East this year thanks to the Group HUG Christmas stocking stuffing event held Monday in Elkhart.

The event, held at 6 p.m. at the River Oaks Community Church, Goshen, was sponsored by the Elkhart chapter of the national HUGS Project, a not-for-profit organization which takes its name from the handmade cooling neckties the organization makes year round for troops overseas.

According to Nancy Mast, president of the HUGS Elkhart chapter, Group HUG is the organization’s annual assembly line-type meeting where local HUG members are invited to the church to fill hundreds of Christmas stockings with gifts and necessities to help lift the spirits of our troops over the Christmas holiday.

“Tonight we’re filling 500 Christmas stockings to be shipped to the troops,” Mast said. “We know that our troops can’t be home for Christmas, so we’re just trying to send them a little bit of an American Christmas instead.”

During the event, volunteers busily stuffed their stockings with all manner of holiday goodies and everyday necessities including hot chocolate and coffee packets, oatmeal packets, gum and candy, beef jerky, nail clippers, packages of baby wipes, toiletry items, handmade Christmas ornaments and American flags.

“There are about 20 items that go in each stocking,” Mast said. “We kind of base what we select on the things that we send regularly, and the things that they request. And of course some of the items are just fun things that we know they’ll like and that they can use ongoing, and that maybe they don’t get often otherwise.”

Once all the stockings are stuffed, Mast said shipping of the stockings to the troops will most likely take place within the next week to two weeks.

“It takes a little while for us to process all the paperwork, because we have to deal with things like customs and things like that,” Mast said. “Once they’re packed and we know what the wait time is, we’ll know when we can ship them. But it should be within the next week that they’ll go out.”

While Group HUG is counted as the organization’s annual holiday event, Mast noted that the HUGS Project actually operates year round collecting and sending items to deployed troops around the globe.

“The group is made up of volunteers from the community, and we meet every two weeks to make Hugs,” Mast said. “We have between 50 and 75 volunteers, and that includes some people who work from their homes, and some people who actually come out to the church.”

While the organization currently has enough items to fill all 500 Christmas stockings, Mast said she is always looking for more people to volunteer and donate items to the cause.

“We actually just recently set up a couple drop boxes in the area where people can donate items,” Mast said. “Right now we have one at RadioShack in Market Center in the Dunlap area, one at Ace Hardware in Linway Plaza, and the other one is at the ReMAX Realtors office on U.S. 33 near Goshen.”

For more information on the HUGS Project Elkhart chapter or to volunteer, contact Nancy Mast at 574-293-2810.