Liliana Whitney

Liliana Whitney, of Burlington, receives her bag of Halloween goodies from Vicky PierceMulliss and friends. Whitney’s mom Star sent the photo of the little trick or treater to PierceMulliss and friends.

Vicky PierceMulliss, of South Burlington, believes everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.

She has helped — and received help from — several organizations over the years.

“I’ve had bad times and I’ve had good times in life,” she said.

Now, she, her friends and family are working to make Christmas special for local kids — and looking for others to join them.

Next month, PierceMulliss and friends will stuff about 250 stockings for Vermont children to ensure they don’t go without this season.

The seed for a stocking effort was planted long ago, in the spring, when PierceMulliss put together an Easter egg-stravaganza. Normally, her Country Club Drive neighborhood throws a barbeque and Easter egg hunt for the kids.

But with COVID-19, it didn’t happen.

PierceMulliss took it upon herself to make a socially distant egg hunt on her lawn with candy-filled plastic eggs. PierceMulliss and her husband also hid stuffed animals in trees around her home for the kids to spot like a scavenger hunt.

“It made me feel good to see the kids out smiling and laughing,” she said.

But she didn’t think much more about that event once it passed. Life carried on until Halloween. PierceMulliss heard debates about whether kids would be able to trick-or-treat.

While she didn’t feel comfortable opening her door to the masses like in a normal year, she knew she wanted to do something.

PierceMulliss rallied her friends and family, who filled 244 brown paper lunch bags with candy, pencils and stickers. The group then split up to deliver the Halloween goodies to kids around Winooski, Colchester, Burlington and South Burlington.

After Halloween, PierceMulliss was approached — virtually — by a woman she met through the Buy Nothing Burlington/South Burlington/Winooski Facebook group, which connects neighbors in a local “gift economy” to help them give and receive goods without bartering, payment or expectation of reciprocating.

The woman asked if PierceMulliss might be able to help bring holiday cheer to her son, who has autism and at age 19 is too old to qualify for Toys for Tots and other charitable gift organizations, PierceMulliss said.

The woman had just lost her job and would soon be moving, PierceMulliss added.

“Parents don’t want to see total devastation on their children’s face, and it’s easier to give them a stocking with a little bit of something than to say, ‘Mommy and Daddy are really sorry, but we couldn’t give you too much right now,” she said.

PierceMulliss searched for stocking-stuffing opportunities around the state.

Enter Pamela Hamblin, of South Burlington.

Hamblin has spent the last three years donating holiday gifts to families who miss application deadlines from larger charitable organizations, or who are not eligible. She met PierceMulliss when PierceMulliss offered to help with her gift donation operation.

When PierceMulliss asked Hamblin if she’d like to join forces for the stocking stuffing venture, Hamblin was quick to say yes.

“Just seeing the joy, the tears and how truly grateful and appreciative that they were, that they actually really needed this, is what keeps me doing it every year,” Hamblin said.

Each Friday, from November to late December, Hamblin and her husband plan to buy 20 stockings for the donated toys and gifts. A crafter, she said she’ll even make stockings if needed.

Anyone who wants can get involved by donating toys.

Last week, 131 stockings were promised to children in Wolcott, Belvidere, Fairfax, Montpelier, Middlebury, Grand Isle and throughout Chittenden County, PierceMulliss said. The group has an Amazon wish list full of bulk toys they plan to divvy up among stockings.

Cash donations aren’t accepted — asking for toys shows transparency that the group will do what it says and deliver to children in need, she said.

PierceMulliss is a mother and grandmother. Her love of children — and animals — has always been a guiding force in her charitable actions.

“We grew up without electricity, we grew up without indoor plumbing and if we didn’t grow it, raise it, sow it, we didn’t have it,” PierceMulliss said of her childhood.

It’s hard for people to ask for help when they are in need, and she wants to help however she can, she said.

The group plans to donate any extra toys to the children’s ward of the University of Vermont Medical Center.

“You help your neighbors, and you don’t help your neighbors expecting something in return, you do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Those interested in helping or in requesting a stocking can email vjpierce1969@gmail.com or call PierceMulliss at 777-5383 for more information.

An Amazon wish list is available at amzn.to/32LIZkr.

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