Three months after Wendy Strauss's mother June died, she found a note.

"I picked up a file folder and this little slip of paper fell on to the floor, and that's where I found her request. And it was entitled 'Mom's Christmas Stocking,'" Wendy said. "It said, 'I want you to continue filling a stocking for mom. Every year, put the things in it that you love…the things you'd love to give to me, but I want you to give it to someone that really needs a shot of love.'"

And with that, now 12 years ago, "Mom's Christmas Stocking" was born.

The holidays were always a special time for Wendy and her family, so it was no surprise that even after she passed, Wendy's mother would want to keep the Christmas spirit alive.

Heeding her mother's request, every year Wendy and a team of volunteers fill stockings to donate to WIN, a nonprofit that supports homeless women and their children.

In her first year, Wendy filled eight stockings; this year, she filled nearly 800.

"I like to put something in the stocking that I would give to my mom, or I would want her to have," Wendy said.

Stockings are carefully stuffed and filled to the brim with things like toothbrushes, necklaces, and handmade scarves. Many of the items are donated, although Wendy pays for some out of her own pocket.

Over the years, the tradition has even spread beyond New York to states like Texas and Maryland. As some volunteers have moved, they've brought "Mom's Christmas Stocking" events to their new homes.

(Wendy Strauss, our latest New Yorker of the Week, fills stockings to donate to WIN, a nonprofit that supports homeless women and their children.)

"Some people just need to know…that somebody is in their corner and that they're not alone this holiday season and that there are people thinking of them," volunteer Jenny Flores said. "It's not the stuff that goes in the stocking; it's the people here, there are so many people organizing…filling the stocking with love and making people feel special."

While also keeping mom's legacy alive.

"I can still see myself standing there in my mom's office, you know, picking that item up off the floor, reading that little note, and just getting goosebumps," Wendy said. "OK, mom, this is what I'm going to do. But I never imagined it growing into something this big."

For giving the gift of joy to those who need it most this Christmas, Wendy Strauss is our New Yorker of the Week.


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