Local family starts holiday soldier ministry

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Sept. 22, Benny and Stephanie Gibson attended the send-off of their son, Chad Gibson, to Iraq from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Chad serves as a Navy Corpsman with the 2nd Battalion 9th Marines, an infantry unit in Iraq.

Chad Gibson e-mails home and lets his mom know if there are men who are not getting mail/packages from home and asks her to send them his next package. That’s where the idea originated to do stockings for soldiers.

What started as a project at the Clanton First United Methodist Church soon became a community project. Churches, youth groups, Sunday School classes, schools, businesses, individuals, local dentists, the Clanton post office, the local hospital, pharmacies, family, the State of Alabama EMA, St. Clair County, Autauga County, Perry County, Wilcox County and Sumter County EMA programs participated in the project.

“My house looked like a store with stuffed stockings and stocking stuffers for the soldiers,” Stephanie Gibson said. “Bibles were donated, and a Bible verse was put in all the stockings. The original goal of 200 stockings came and went to over 300 stockings.”

The giving didn’t stop there; people started giving money donations for postage.

“All the money we needed to mail not 300 but 366 stockings plus 60 boxes was available,” Gibson said.

The boxes of stockings were mailed to Iraq and Kuwait from Clanton Post Office on Nov. 12. The post office assisted for two hours in the mailing process of the stockings.

“I do not hesitate one minute to say, ‘This was a God thing,’” Gibson said. “We thought about it, prayed about it and God took it from there.”

Chad Gibson told his mother in a conversation she had with him on Nov. 24 that the stockings had arrived.

“My hopes were that it would be closer to Christmas, but God knew what he was doing,” Stephanie Gibson said. “Chad said they came at just the right time. The guys had not had a day off in weeks—late and all night patrols, several IED explosions—and they were wore out.”

Chad Gibson said the stockings lifted the soldiers’ spirits.

“I want to thank everyone for all they did to make it possible to have stockings in Iraq,” Stephanie Gibson said. “It was truly a community effort. Chad said he was so proud to say Chilton County really does care for their soldiers.

“We had postage money left and gave it to a group of ladies here in Clanton that buy pajama bottoms, T-shirts and socks for wounded soldiers still in the hospital in Germany.

“I told Chad if they would send a picture, we might just do Easter baskets.”