Newborns at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham will receive an extra blessing during December: a hand-sewn Christmas stocking to help welcome them to the world.
Thanks to volunteers of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), the St. Vincent’s Volunteer program and the Acts group at Gardendale Baptist Church, St. Vincent’s Hospital received about 200 handmade stockings to give to parents of newborns. Dianne Guthrie, coordinator for Volunteer Services at St. Vincent’s, was thrilled to have APSO members’ help, in what APSO leaders expect will become an annual project.
The stockings have been hand-stitched by volunteers since 1965, becoming lifelong treasures for many families. Guthrie said that last year, a young mother at St. Vincent’s Hospital told the staff she had the stocking she received at birth more than 20 years ago.
“These stockings are not ordinary red felt stockings, but works of art hand sewn by loving people,” Guthrie said. “Each stocking has the date sewn on to commemorate the year of the baby’s birth. These heirlooms are treasured by the baby’s parents. Just like our precious babies, each stocking is unique.”
For Magic City APSO member Charlotte Garrett, the project is a way to give back. It is a perfect activity for Garrett, who enjoys sewing and handcrafting pillows to give as gifts.
“I have a 3-year-old grandbaby who is special needs, and she’s been in and out of Children’s Hospital,” said Garrett, a staff accounting assistant for 12 years at Alabama Power’s Corporate Headquarters in Birmingham. “I like volunteering for things. I love to help people and I love to make people smile.”
Garrett took pains with the stockings, adding special touches: “The ones with more detail took about 2 1/2 hours. The blue and white one took me a little bit longer because I added a little more detail. I added a dove with ‘Peace on Earth’ and angels to others,” said Garrett, who has volunteered in reading programs and Camp Smile-A-Mile for children who are fighting cancer, and taken part in runs to raise money for nonprofits.
Guthrie, who has worked at St. Vincent’s for two years, said the Christmas stocking project is one of her “most favorite ministries” at the hospital.
“We are so focused on our mission here,” she said. “We’re going to pray over the stockings, too.”
“All of the items are hand sewn,” Guthrie added. “One lady spent 60 hours doing seed beading. You have to really want to do this.”
Guthrie made sure to request more stockings this year to avoid running out. The hospital provided the fabric and beads. Some volunteers, like Magic City APSO’s Carole Myers, “fancied up” their handcrafted stockings by buying extra beads. Hydro Generation Project Manager Thomas St. John, a Magic City member, helped with the effort.
Sewing and decorating the stockings was a family affair for Myers, who enlisted her married daughter, Sara, to help. Myers spent a couple of hours each evening until she completed the work.
“I enjoy doing this type of stuff, and it’s special, being for a baby,” said Myers, Risk Services budget analyst at Alabama Power for 13 years. Myers, who for several years has volunteered for APSO’s Exceptional Anglers tournament, said the sewing project helped fill a niche.
“My daughters sewed and made little Christmas trees that I sewed on,” said Casey Camper, a Southeast/Farley APSO member for five years. Her daughters, Hailey, 14, and Hannah, 12, enjoyed helping.
“It was a fun project,” said Camper, a customer service representative at Alabama Power’s Phenix City Business Office. “With COVID going on, this is a good way to do stuff with APSO. Normally, my whole family gets involved. I was glad they could find a project that we could all volunteer for.”
While the stocking project brings joy to many new parents at Christmastime, the task brought Garrett happiness, too.
“I wanted to give back to any child who comes in the world, and help give the kids hope,” Garrett said. “They may not understand now, but maybe one day, they’ll know that someone spent a lot of time doing this for them, from love.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)