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Operation Stocking Stuffer founder Lorugene Young dies at 75

HOUSTON – For more than 30 years, the toy drive that is now called "Operation Stocking Stuffer" has helped bring smiles to children in our area during the holiday season.

The woman who founded the event, Lorugene Young, has died at the age of 75. 

Before Christmas every year, families line up to receive presents for their children. While it takes an army of people to pull off the operation, it began with just one woman.

By all accounts, Lorugene Young lived her life to serve others.

More than three decades ago, the schoolteacher saw a need in her community and a toy drive was born.

Her home, her truck and soon her school would be filled with donations.

Young insisted that every member of her family help. As children, it's not something they understood. 

"I never understood why we had to go out to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving before we could eat. I never understood why we had to go give out toys before we could open up our own toys, but now I understand," Sharae Young,  her daughter, said.

Young's granddaughter, Shanikka Tryon, remembers how her grandmother's charity work changed her. "You realized when you see kids when they're with the parents, and you have a jacket and they don't have a jacket, eventually you're like, 'Wow! Can I give them my jacket?' It becomes a norm."

While her family was always there, Young wasn't afraid to call on businesses and others to step up, too.

Years ago, one of those calls was to the Houston Fire Department.

"She called and asked if there was any way we in the Fire Department could help giving out toys," said Rick Flanagan of Houston emergency management for the city of Houston. "She had a commanding voice and a loving heart and i think when you blend those things together, you get the special outreach that only Lorugene Young could have."

Within hours of her call, Lorugene's army was at every fire station picking up toys, and the partnership grew from there.

Before she passed, Young had Alzheimer's disease. While most of her memories faded, one thing still brought a smile to her face.

She would always recognize the stocking stuffer, no matter what.

And now, as her family, the Fire Department and everyone touched by Young's life prepare to say goodbye, they know her legacy will live on.

This weekend, members of the Houston Fire Department will serve as the pallbearers at the service for Young.  

The annual toy drive, which KPRC now proudly sponsors is just one of the many ways Lorugene Young served.

She handed out school supplies, clothes, scholarships and so much more.

Her amazing community work was even recognized by the Texas Legislature during the last session.