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Federal Way teen fills thousands of Christmas stockings for children
Children in Federal Way may not know 15-year-old Makayla Long, but because of her, they know the fun of getting a stocking filled with gifts on Christmas morning.
For the past 10 years, Long has helped to fill between 10,000 and 15,000 stockings for needy children.
This year, she and her grandmother, Betty Long, also of Federal Way, packed 1,500 stocking stuffer bags, which will be distributed next week through Christmas House, a cooperative effort of area churches and Multi-Service Center.
At Christmas House, parents shop for their children in a store-like setting at Steel Lake Presbyterian Church. The parents have been screened for need and given appointments through Multi-Service Center's Federal Way Food Bank.
All items, such as new and gently used toys, games, puzzles, books, socks, stocking stuffers and more are donated by community members and available for free to the parents.
Last year, Christmas House served 707 families that included 1,862 Federal Way children, ages 14 and under.
From Dec. 17-19, Christmas House organizers expect to serve a similar number of people.
Christmas House is in Makayla's family DNA. More than 20 years ago, her grandmother Betty founded the project, and encouraged area churches and MSC to get involved. As soon as Makayla was old enough to help, she worked alongside her grandmother, filling one-gallon bags with stocking stuffers.
"I feel good about making the bags," Makayla said. "I enjoy giving back to the community this way."
The Decatur High School freshman does not meet the children she helps, but they are on her mind.
"I like to think about them on Christmas morning, what they'll find in their stockings," she said. "We get a lot more people at Christmas House every year. You can really see how the economy has hit people. It makes me think about how much I have and what I take for granted."
All items — stocking stuffers as well as toys — are donated. Items are still needed for next week's event. People can go to The Giving Tree at The Commons Mall to purchase and donate new gifts from now until Sunday, Dec. 16. Gently used items are accepted year-round at Multi-Service Center.
As soon as Christmas House is over, Makayla and Betty start preparing bags for next year.
"We start three weeks after Christmas, I'm not kidding," Makayla said. Last winter's January ice storm and the subsequent school closures helped her get a good jumpstart on the stocking stuffers.
"I mean, if there's a power outage, I might as well do something like fill those bags," she added. "You have to stay on top of it to get all those bags done in time."
To learn more about Christmas House and how you can help, go to www.multi-servicecenter.com/getinvolved.