HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — When Juliana “Jules” Moss, 12, was traveling last Christmas Eve, a lady at the Seattle USO gave her a handmade Christmas stocking full of toys, snacks, playing cards and more.
“She said everyone deserves a little something, even though they are away from home for the holidays,” said Jules, a military kid and seventh-grader at William Davies Middle School in Hamilton Township.
That warm memory sparked her decision to ask for an unusual Christmas present this year. She asked her mom to help her make and stuff 100 similar stockings to give to kids in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.
Jules was on a layover on a trip to Hawaii last year with her mom and her dad, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Billy Moss, when she got her stocking.
Moved by songwriter Lin Manuel Miranda's song for Puerto Rico, "It's Almost Like Praying," students and staff at the William H. Ross School decided they wanted to try and make a difference in the lives of Puerto Rican people devastated by Hurricane Maria.
She is aware that children in Puerto Rico are in a much more difficult position, many living without clean water or electricity after Hurricane Maria in September.
She has gotten so much help from family and friends, including her Coast Guard family all over the country, that she is sending more than 200 stockings full of plush toys, toiletries and art supplies to the island.
“My two friends Christian (Kniep) and Dave (Warner) are going to pass them out to kids in orphanages in Aguadilla,” Jules said.
They are both in the Coast Guard, which has a facility there, said her mom, Erika Moss.
The family is shipping them Monday with the help of a “Christmas angel” donor who is paying the shipping charge. Any leftover stockings will be given to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give to kids who live in mountain communities who depend on helicopter deliveries of food and water to survive.
Some will also go to Warner’s six children, said Erika. Coast Guard spouses and children have been evacuated from the island, mainly to New Orleans and Florida. Warner’s house in Puerto Rico survived the hurricane but was lost in a fire later, while he was visiting his family off island, she said. The family lost everything.
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Jules said she raised $1,200 online to buy the stockings and gifts, and many people also contributed items to put in them. She made 64 of the stockings with a sewing machine.
Stuffing the stockings was one of the most fun parts of her effort, she said.
Erika said it was also great to open the door each day and see another box from family and friends filled with donations.
You can see more about her effort at youcaring.com. Search for “Juliana’s Mission.”