It started with one woman’s need to fill void.

About 10 years ago, Suzan Casey was standing in front of one of the Salvation Army’s Angel Trees. She had lost her son to war and, four years later, her husband to cancer.

“I was depressed and, to be honest, I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “I was looking at that Angel Tree, and God whispered, ‘It’s time to do something for someone else.’”

She didn’t have much money, but she was good at sewing, so she decided she would make stockings for girls at New Life Children’s Center. It was too close to Christmas that year to begin her project, so Casey waited until after the holiday to call the center to see if they would be interested in giving the girls handmade stockings.

“They had 60 girls,” she said. “I had no idea they had that many. I called my friend Judy (Guimont) and asked if she wanted to help, and she said, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ We’ve been making stockings ever since.”

From its two-person beginning in 2009, Grandma’s Stocking Guild has grown into a 501(c)3 with nearly 70 members. Workshops are held at three locations throughout the area.

“We’ve made more than 600 stockings this year, which brings our total to around 2,300,” Casey said, explaining the group’s stockings are now distributed to multiple organizations that work with foster children ages 10-18, including New Life, Pegasus Schools in Lockhart, CASA of Central Texas and the Greater San Marcos Youth Council.

“We try to make sure each  stocking is different,” Casey said. “The patterns are the same, but the fabrics are all different. Each woman embellishes each stocking however she wants.”

Casey said making sure the stockings are different is important.

“We’re telling them they are individuals. God made each child different and they deserve something special to them,” she said. “All of them have gotten the short shift in lives. Often they go to these places with nothing but the clothes on their backs and when they do get something, it’s generic.”

Each year as Christmas approaches, the guild collects the children’s names from the recipient organizations. Each stocking is then embroidered with a child’s name. The stockings are distributed throughout December.

“They get something from someone who says, ‘I’m here and I’ve been praying for you and for you to have better life. We’ve prayed over your stocking and you, and this is just for you,’” Casey said. “Some of these kids have been beaten down so bad. To get something with their name on it, with their name spelled right... they are just thrilled.”

Each stocking includes a tiny silver cross, and often assorted donated items, like toothpaste, toothbrushes and small toys are put inside.

“I’ve been there when the stockings are handed out, and sometimes these kids just break down and cry,” she said. “I thought  what we were doing was so small, but it means so much to them.”

Casey said the project has been good for the seamstresses, as well.

“We have a lot of widows and people who have lost family members,” she said. “They need something to do and this gives them a purpose. Some will make 50 stockings and I tell them, ‘You don’t have to work so much,’ but they want to do it.”

In response, the children who receive the stockings often send letters of thanks to the women, who range from teenagers to senior citizens.

“You can’t pay money for that feeling,” she said. “It really is a work of love.”