By Petty Officer 2nd Class Brigitte Johnston
The USO at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, is bringing some holiday cheer to sailors this year thanks to a generous supporter.
It all started last year, when Carpentersville, Illinois, local Tina Loizzi created homemade stuffed stockings for service members stationed at her daughter Kaitlin’s base in Wyoming; Kaitlin is currently serving in the Air Force. Loizzi collected donations from friends, family and local businesses to stuff the stockings she made by hand herself.
“Until my daughter went into the military, I did not realize that it can be a lonely place sometimes,” Loizzi said. “I made sure to include a letter or card with each stocking so that military members receiving the stockings would know how appreciated they really are.”
“This year I felt it important to do something for the naval base that was right here near me. All military deserve to be very appreciated, so this is just my little input that I did happily.”
The USO accepted the donation this year and will deliver them to barracks across the base throughout the holiday season.
“We have a huge team that helps us find people that want to support the military out in Chicago, in the state and throughout the nation,” USO Great Lakes Operations Manager Clarice Bernett said. “Especially around the holidays, people start thinking of groups in need and we get reached out to by our team. They ask if we have space for this and – of course – we always do. We went ahead and accepted this incredibly generous gift of two to almost three hundred stockings full of stuff.”
Sailors who receive one of these handmade stockings will enjoy gifts like snacks, toiletries, treats and handwritten notes. 90% of the donations came from businesses such as Otto Engineering (who made a monetary donation) and Primrose Candy Co. in Chicago (who donated heart candy).
These gestures remind service members – many of whom have been unable to leave base due to COVID-19 related restrictions – that others are thinking of them.
“Some of us have been on base since [the pandemic] started,” Navy Seaman Nicholas Brooks said. “It’s nice to know that people outside are thinking of us here on base and trying to help us out.”
For Loizzi, she aims to provide comfort to the sailors, just as she did last year to her daughter.
“My biggest hope is that the military members who received the stockings will feel good and know that they are making a difference in the decision that they have made to be a part of the United States military,” Loizzi said. “I hope they feel a virtual hug when they receive the stockings.”
USO Great Lakes serves over 60,000 sailors a year, according to Bernett. Throughout the holidays, they have planned snack deliveries to the barracks, a visit from Santa and a grab-and-go service to pick up snacks and other goodies.
“For the sailors that can’t go home, we’re just making sure they have something over the holidays and that they’re being taken care of and thought of in this time,” Bernett said. “Over [the holidays], we’re here to provide material support. We’ll make sure we support whatever we can in whatever way we can.”
-This article was originally published on DVIDSHub.net. It has been edited for USO.org.
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