BLOOMINGTON Ill. (WMBD)– Dozens of volunteers met in Bloomington, Sunday, to help stock 1,500 stockings for those serving overseas

Operation Santa is a national stocking drive based in Central Illinois staffed by volunteers that serve the nation’s armed forces.

Coordinators said planning began as early as May which included collecting donations of cards, candy, health items, and entertainment.

First-time volunteer, Ronda Hall, said she’s happy to give back to the ones who give so much for our freedom.

“They sacrificed so much for our country and we need to show them our appreciation and to be that many miles away from home over the holidays, they can certainly use a stocking,” said Hall.

Casey Johnson helped organize the event and she said she’s thrilled to be able to stuff as many stockings as possible.

“We’re doing 1,500 stockings this year, which is crazy because there’s like 20 items that go into each stocking. So we’ve collected this year over 25,000 items to put into those 1500 stockings,” said Johnson.

She says the stockings will be shipped out later this week and those actively serving will receive their stockings shortly before Christmas.

Operation Santa has sent more than 250,000 Christmas stockings to the nation’s deployed troops for over 20 years.