Christmas tradition

Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce Director Jodi Lewis thanks Adam Guthrie, funeral director of Huff-Guthrie Funeral Home in Franklin, on Tuesday after getting pictures and information for the chamber on the funeral home's collection of stockings for homeless and disabled veterans. (By Richard Sayer)

A local funeral home’s call for generosity has succeeded in bringing in a record number of Christmas stockings, stuffed to the brim, that will be delivered this year to homeless and disabled veterans in Venango, Erie and Allegheny counties.

Stockings for Soldiers, a drive organized by Huff-Guthrie Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Franklin, has collected more than 800 stockings filled with useful items for the veteran residents of two shelters and a nursing home.

“People were asking about this collection in August,” said Adam Guthrie, owner of the funeral home. “It is the fifth year we’ve done this, and we have gone from 20-30 stockings the first year to around 800 this year. We just wanted to give something back to the soldiers and sailors, and a lot of people are helping us.”

Casey Rose, co-owner with Guthrie of two other funeral homes, the Black Funeral homes in Sandy Lake and Stoneboro, grinned when he observed “all the different dollar stores around here and Walmart are out of Christmas stockings because of us.”

Guthrie said the stockings are stuffed with items such as socks, gloves, multivitamins, personal-care items, games, CDs and DVDs.

“We received a list of recommended items from the shelters themselves,” Guthrie said. “People buy the stockings, or we provide them, and then they fill them and bring them back to any of our three funeral homes.

“The first year, we collected stockings for the soldiers that were stationed overseas. I had picked up the idea from a friend of mine whose funeral home had sponsored the same kind of thing.”

But “the plan has evolved every year,” said Guthrie.

After that first year, Guthrie and Rose changed course and decided instead of giving the gifts to active-duty service personnel, they would give the stockings to veterans who were homeless or disabled and living in institutions.

“I had a friend who had been in the services, and he said that when he was overseas, they got so many gifts. They got gifts from everywhere,” Guthrie said. “He told me he had a better idea for the project: ‘Give them to the veterans.'”

Guthrie and Rose, along with two other staff members, packed the stockings in boxes on Tuesday and they will then transport them this week to their destinations.

In Venango County, the gifts will be delivered to Fairweather Lodge, the veteran home run by the Venango Training and Development Center in Cranberry.

In Pittsburgh, the Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard will receive the gifts.

Guthrie and the others will also take boxes to Soldiers and Sailors Home, a nursing home for veterans in Erie.

Guthrie said word about their program has spread mostly through the funeral home’s Facebook page, and it was through that site they learned a shelter for veterans, Fairweather Lodge, existed in Venango County.

“I did not know until this year that there was such a shelter,” said Guthrie. “So this is the first year we will be delivering there. As I said, it just keeps evolving. We love doing this.”