A local teenager is once again trying to cheer military personnel serving in war zones by giving them donated holiday stockings filled with goodies.
This is the third year the 16-year-old Poway resident is organizing Operation Stuff-A-Stocking, but she has dramatically scaled it back from last year’s effort when “it took a life of its own,” she said.
With the assistance of many Girl Scout troops and countless locals, Lizarraga collected 1,802 filled stockings over the four-month effort that required her family to have a storage container placed on their driveway for several weeks.
But with her brother, Joey, now out of the Air Force and in college — he and his C-130 crew distributed the stockings while flying around Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait both times — distribution was going to be a problem. She needed someone willing to take on the task.
Coming to her aid this year are two service members whose relatives learned about the project through its Facebook page. Lizarraga said a girl in Rancho Penasquitos got her brother in the Army, Jeff Higginsons, to agree to distribute with his helicopter squadron based in Bagram, Afghanistan. Three Poway girls also asked their mother, Marine Lt. Col. Maura Hennigan, who is stationed in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, to help with distribution.
While the stockings will arrive after Christmas, Lizarraga said she is hoping to get locals to once again share their holiday spirit with those far from home.
Due to response from recipients, Lizarraga is suggesting donors fill the stockings with more snacks than toiletries, since the troops repeatedly told her “how much they loved them.”
Per military regulations, acceptable food items include tuna or canned chicken, small squeezable bottles of mayonnaise, soup and noodle cups, small packets of sugar, candy or gum (only if made in the U.S.), mini boxes of cereal, pre-popped popcorn, snack cakes, pudding that does not need refrigeration, beef jerky, nuts, ice tea, lemonade, hot chocolate mix and individual flavoring for water.
Any “downtime items” are also appropriate. This includes puzzles, crossword and word search books; note paper, stationary, envelopes and pens; playing cards; batteries; balls; gloves and Frisbees.
Stockings cannot include homemade food, candy or cookies; alcoholic beverages; perfumes or colognes; hairspray; matches; butane; flea and tick collars or sprays; shaving creams; cleaning agents; aerosols or anything under pressure; flammables; corrosives; toxins; religious or political materials; magazines; pork or pork products.
Donors are welcome to include a card or letter, but it cannot be in a sealed envelope.
To cover the estimated $600 for shipping, Lizarraga has raised the money by recycling, babysitting and doing extra chores.
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