Surrounded by rows of bright red stockings, a small group of women sat together, nodding their heads in understanding as they listened to another’s story, but still intent on their work, determined to finish their job of bringing a little bit of home to their soldiers serving overseas.
It’s the first holiday season Hartland mom Lori Frechette will celebrate without her oldest son, Drew Lancop, at home. The 20-year-old soldier is currently serving overseas in Afghanistan with the 1461st Michigan National Guard HET Company.
It’s an emotional time for the mother of the young solider who, up until the time he was deployed, lived at home with his family. Which is why the Army mom decided to help organize a holiday stocking drive, which will be sent to him and the other soldiers in his unit.
“It means a lot to me to be able to do something like this on his first Christmas away from home,” Frechette said.
Putting a call out to their local communities, Frechette said she was overwhelmed by the support and amount of donations she received from the Hartland community.
“I have never been so grateful,” she said. “There were tears in my eyes when I walked in to that coffee shop.”
Bags full of donated Halloween candy, games, gift cards and personal care items filled the donation box set out at Kahuna Coffee in Hartland.
“We have letters from the kids to the soldiers thanking them for their service,” Frechette said. “And I know some of the moms from Hartland had the kids go through their Halloween candy and pick out pieces to give to the soldiers, which I thought was pretty amazing to teach kids at a young age that these are people you need to look up to.”
'Because they deserve it.'
The items were then stuffed into stockings by some of the wives, mothers and friends of the soldiers, each woman happy to be able to send a little piece of home to their loved one far away.
Monique Pauley, the wife of the Master Sargent for the platoon, traveled to Hartland from Battle Creek to help stuff stockings.
“I know a lot of his soldiers are young and this is their first time away from home,” Pauley said of her husband.
Pauley, whose husband was deployed just days after their first wedding anniversary, says the deployment has been hard, but she is slowly getting use to doing things alone on those special occasions.
“We just look forward to and keep planning big, overly amount of stuff we’re going to do when he gets home,” Pauley said. “We’re going to really do our anniversary and overly do everything else. We just keep our minds on the future when he gets home.”
It was a sentiment echoed throughout the small group of women, who said their new friendships was one of the ways they were coping with the long absence.
Army wife Cindy Stanaway of Belleville, whose husband is on his third deployment, says she is also trying to stay busy as well, hoping that will help with the long days ahead.
“I’m re-modeling the house,” she said laughing. “I know how to do electrical and plumbing now.”
With more than 20 stocking filled to the top, more items came from donation locations in Canton and Westland including Curves, K&J Hair Salon and Sav-More Drugs.
All the stockings will also be shipped free by Schuler’s in Canton.
“They deserve it,” Stanaway said. “They’re fighting for our freedom.”