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It’s the thought that counts

November 30, 2018

It’s the thought that counts.

Whether it’s a gaudy tie, loud sweater or package of socks inside the Christmas wrapping, the phrase is a common response to gifts that don’t live up to expectations.

For the veterans and active military who will receive Christmas stockings from Cutler Funeral Home and Cremation Center and the La Porte High School Student Athletic Council this holiday season, the gesture truly will be meaningful.

“It’s not a huge thing, but I’d like to think it means a lot that someone at La Porte High School is thinking of me,” LP junior and SAC member Sean Wilson said. “As a group, we’re really happy to help people who need a helping hand, to give something to people who are fighting for us. It’s an appreciation thing. For me personally, Christmas is a time of reflection and giving. It’s altruistic. I’m proud to be a part of the committee.”

Cutler is in its second year as part of the program, which originated a decade ago with Veterans and Family Memorial Care, a provider to 800 funeral homes nationally.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Cutler owner Dale Knouse said. “We got 300 stockings, put the word out, and all 300 were packed and returned.”

At that point, the stockings, 325 in all, were picked up by Joe Novak of the National Guard Army Reserve in La Porte, who delivered them to the USO in Chicago, which then shipped them to U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The connection with La Porte High School was made when Athletics Director Ed Gilliand contacted Cutler about being a part of the program.

“We’re always looking for something this time of year for the athletic council to do,” LP Assistant Athletic Director Steve Santana said. “They’ve volunteered with Salvation Army. Ed thought it would be good idea for the holidays, a way to get everybody involved. I don’t know how many we’re going to fill, but a lot of kids are still bringing them in.”

Gilliland picked up 100 stockings from Cutler and Wilson hopes for all of them to be filled.

“As adults, you get it right off the bat. You appreciate things as you get older,” Knouse said. “It’s really cool to see kids get involved. I’ve got a sophomore in college and a junior in high school. There are kids they know, friends who are going to go into the service, make that sacrifice. We always want to do things for veterans. It’s a real simple connection.”

Each SAC member was given four stockings, one for them to fill and three for them to give to other students to fill. They then fill theirs and get another empty one to give to someone else.

“It’s spreading the joy,” Wilson said.

With the bump from the high school, Knouse estimates at least 400 filled stockings to be passed along for shipment next week. He said they will keep about 50 back to give to folks at the veterans shelter in South Bend, possibly to be delivered by La Porte students.

“My grandpa’s a veteran. I would feel happy for him if he was fighting in a war and a high school student gave him something for Christmas,” Wilson said. “It’s important to me on that level.”

Time is running short but anyone who would like to still get involved in the program can stop by Cutler at 2900 Monroe St. in La Porte between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. today or tomorrow to pick up a stocking.

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