Kenai-based SOAR Interna-tional Ministries will once again provide Christmas stockings to children in Russia.
The Christian humanitarian organization is seeking donors to sponsor the stockings at $29 each, or to donate other amounts toward the general cost of operating the program.
In past years, SOAR purchased personal hygiene items, school supplies, warm gloves and hats, candy, toys and fresh fruit to be stuffed in the Christmas stockings and then delivered them to Russian children.
This year, however, because "importing the gifts has become increasingly more complicated, time consuming and expensive," according to the group's director, Richard Page, SOAR will purchase the items in Russia and have the stockings stuffed there for distribution.
The group also hopes to provide a children's Bible printed in Russian, to each child.
The goal of the group is to find sponsors for 5,000 of the stockings according to John Turner, one of SOAR's four pilots.
"Right now we have about 800 stockings sponsored," Turner said Thursday.
He currently is contacting churches on the Kenai Peninsula in hopes of getting more sponsors, and said that in the past, sponsors have come from all over the United States.
He said most of the stockings this year will be distributed in Moscow and surrounding suburbs and in the Chukotka region of the Russian Far East, where SOAR began its ministry 11 years ago.
In January, SOAR will go to Moscow by commercial air to help stuff the stockings and deliver them to the children.
Turner said people wishing to go along to meet the children may do so for an approximate cost of $2,900. Twelve people already have signed up.
In addition to the Christmas stocking program, SOAR flies to the Chukotka region across the Bering Strait from Alaska ministering through vacation Bible schools, camp programs, evangelistic meetings, construction and repair and outreach to widows, orphans and other children.
The group also has scheduled and transported teams of U.S. and Canadian doctors, dentists and other medical professionals to Russia.
Turner said that besides himself and the director, SOAR has two other trained, professional pilots, Scott Page and Greg Mangione, who work out of the former Southcentral Air hangar at Kenai Municipal Airport.
To sponsor a stocking or a Bible, or to join SOAR on its January visit to Russia, people should contact the group at 283-1961 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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