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Texas town plays Santa for Kunsan troops

By JIMMY NORRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 30, 2007

Servicemembers at Kunsan Air Base awoke Christmas morning to find gifts left not by Santa, but by the people of Lubbock, Texas.

Volunteers from the city made, filled and shipped about 3,000 Christmas stockings for the airmen and soldiers in an effort to spread holiday cheer.

Spearheaded by the mother of a Kunsan-based Air Force officer, the donation began as a church project then ballooned into something much larger.

“The amazing thing about this project is that after hearing about it, so many people wanted to become a part of it,” project coordinator Dona Nussbaum said during a phone interview Thursday.

She said the project began as part of Westminster Presbyterian Church’s missionary outreach program, but businesses and people statewide quickly became involved.

One business donated 100 yards of denim. Another, she said, donated 100 yards of felt.

Others donated candy, promotional items, compact discs and sundry items. Local schools and World War II veterans made Christmas cards.

Lubbock mayor David Miller and Congressman Randy Neugebauer also sent letters to be included in the stockings.

“Once it started getting that big it’s hard to say how many people were involved or how much it costs,” Nussbaum said. “We had so many people praying for the project or donating candy, donating money or helping to make stockings.”

She said 300 people showed up at the Lubbock Volunteer Center on Nov. 17 to begin putting stockings together. After about 3½ weeks of work, Nussbaum said, her group had 606 boxes ready to ship, for about $6,000 in postage.

The bulk of it was paid with donations after she gave an interview on a local radio station asking people to “adopt a box” by contributing $8.95 to buy a flat-rate box at the post office.

Nussbaum’s daughter, 1st Lt. Rachael Nussbaum, 8th Civil Engineering Squadron, hid the stockings in an empty dorm to keep them secret.

On Christmas Eve, she and 20 to 30 volunteers, including unit first sergeants and chief master sergeants, hung the stockings on dorm room doors.

The gifts were appreciated, she said.

“We’re really grateful to Lubbock for sending this stuff,” she said. “There are a lot of kids here that are away from home at Christmas for the first time. This lets them know that someone is thinking of them.”