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Michael Sparks of Serenity Funeral Care feeling spirit of Christmas collecting stockings to send to soliders

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Sending stockings stuffed with goodies is how Serenity Funeral Care is helping to spread Christmas cheer to soldiers.

With 2,500 soldiers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Michael Sparks of Serenity Funeral Care in Covington, is asking for the community to help support our troops by filling Christmas stockings for the enlisted men and women who serve our country.

Filling stockings for soldiers goes a long way in showing them how they are appreciated for the sacrifices they make every day. “I don’t really think the military gets the praise as much for what they do for us as they should,” says Sparks.

Kadee Payton and Michael Sparks

Sparks got the idea of sending stuffed stockings from a former colleague, Cory Messinger. Messinger had a close friend stationed over-seas and wanted to show him his support. Sparks helped Messinger with the project and enjoyed it. So much so, that when he and his wife returned to Northern Kentucky, they decided to initiate the project here.

This being the first year he has done this project locally, Sparks reached out to the Regional USO office for Kentucky to get advice and help with logistics. After the onset of COVID, sending stockings overseas was not possible. But knowing there are soldiers stateside, not spending the holidays with their families, continued to fuel Sparks determination. The USO suggested Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

“Wright Patterson Air Force Base is a huge training facility and has a lot of junior enlisted [soldiers],” ´Sparks says. He is excited about the partnership. “We thought we could do more good,” for the soldiers at Wright Patterson he says. These soldiers, some just out of basic training, are not going to have as many liberties, able to take leave during the holidays, or have their families living with them.

The large number of soldiers may seem daunting to some, but Sparks is not deterred. He and his team bought 300 stockings, to begin with. All but 30 have been taken to be filled but he is more than excited at the prospect of getting more.

“We just wanted to see how far we could go with it [this year],” he says.

Sparks has had the help of colleagues Kadee Payton and Kelly Bloom to plan and implement. His wife Melinda has been their “cheer squad,” he says. The word has been spreading through social media, neighborhood groups, and VFW’s. Churches in the area have been great about letting their members know about the project.

“The following Monday we had people from the different churches come through and pick up stockings,” says Sparks. Even a girls’ volleyball team in Union has taken stockings to fill.

Several organizations have been of great support in a variety of ways in this effort, including the VFW, Rotary Club of Covington, and the American Legion in Florence. The Ferraro & the Franklin Park Factory donated 8,500 Butterfingers candy bars to be included in the stockings.

Community members can pick up a stocking to decorate and fill at Serenity Funeral Care at 40 W. 6th Street in Covington, Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. If you are not sure what to fill the stockings with, not a problem! The funeral home has a suggested list of items. If time is an issue, donations are welcomed and the staff at Serenity Funeral Care will fill the stockings. Contact Serenity Funeral Care for questions. Stockings are due back at Serenity Funeral Care no later than December 15.

Sparks thanks those who have already donated and those in advance who will.

“We have a lot of families that have served. Throughout our company, it seems like everybody has had a family member that served or is enlisted. It’s just something that’s very near and dear to us,” says Sparks.

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