Holiday preparations started early for more than 30 women and youths who have been busy getting in the Christmas spirit.

For the second year, women from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in East Texas have worked to purchase material, cut, sew and donate Christmas stockings for newborn babies as a gift for parents to take home from the hospital.

The infant fits inside the new stocking, capturing a special memory. UT Health East Texas plans to present all new mothers with the stockings embroidered with the UT Health East Texas logo.

“We are so pleased our labor and delivery departments can offer these hand-sewn special keepsakes during the holiday season,” said Moody Chisholm, UT Health East Texas president and CEO. “These parents already are taking home the best gift possible this season, and we hope this stocking is a fun reminder for years to come of how small their bundle of joy once was.”

Last year the church donated more than 150 stockings, and this year the volunteers have made more than 250. The fleece is measured and cut into the stocking pattern. The young women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ages 12 to 18 gathered with the older women to help with the cutting.

The diverse group of women enjoyed working alongside one another to speed up the project in time for the holidays, church representatives said, adding that the response was positive for those making the stockings as well as the families that got to take one home last year.

“When I was helping I felt really happy knowing that I was making something that would be special keepsake for a family,” said Abrie Johnson, 17, Tyler who helped cut stockings. “It was great to work on this project together as women.”

The stockings are hand-sewn by five women from the church, many of whom have sewn for years. One primary seamstress is a retired nurse, so the project is particularly close to her heart.

“We are thrilled that we are able to provide stockings for the community here in East Texas,” said Scott Mackey, a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Tyler resident for more than 20 years. “As a church we believe this is what the true spirit of Christmas is all about — Christ-like service to others.”

Mackey’s wife, Mary, helped sew several stockings this year and hopes to make it a yearly tradition.

“What I love about the stocking project is that it helps me focus on the true meaning of Christmas — the birth of a baby, our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Mary Mackey said. “As we gathered to cut out the fleece I imagined the joy of all the new parents bringing their infants home in these beautiful, bright red stockings. What a blessing to welcome a precious baby into your family at Christmastime! I hope the recipients feel our love and support as they celebrate the holiday season.”

Jill Taylor is the media relations specialist for the Tyler Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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