Jan Hess, LaVerna Petersen, Louisa Hendrickson and Jo Sansevero get the blankets ready to ship to the soldiers.
The American Legion auxiliary #42 met to fill the boxes to be sent overseas on Wednesday. The boxes were stuffed completely full with a new fleece blanket, Christmas candy, personal items and letters, magazines,pictures and calendars. The packages need to be in the mail by Dec. 4 to arrive in time for Christmas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the recent Veteran's Day program at San Rafael Junior High, Principal Garth Johnson challenged the students to each contribute a dollar to the Operation Home Support project. So between Veteran's Day and Dec. 1 the students brought in $130. Jan Hess, project director picked up the money from Principal Johnson. She said they are so thankful for the interest the students have taken in the project. Another side note to the Veteran's Day program came when art teacher at the school donated $100 to the Operation Home Support program in the name of her sister Nancy Martinez. Martinez will receive a nice card from the ladies auxiliary to thank her and her sister Jackie Weihing for their generosity. Janet Damron is also involved in the project her dear friend Shirley Michell, known fondly "Grandma Frickert" is more than 80 years old and lives in the Salt Lake area. She knits hats for soldiers each year and this year has knitted more than two dozen hats to be included in the care packages.
Everything for the soldiers is stored within ziplock bags and then included in the box. The soldiers reuse these bags to store their personal belongings to keep the sand out of their things.
The Orangeville scouts have also become involved in the project. They wrote a personal letter to each of the soldiers which also included a picture of the individual scout. The scouts wanted to do something nice for the families left at home during the holidays without their loved ones, so they enlisted the help of their scout leader Lisa Jewkes and they purchased the supplies to make a pumpkin roll for each of the families. Scout leader Jewkes will do the baking for the scouts and the scouts will deliver the treats to the families of the servicemen.
Several of the ladies showing up to package the gifts brought in more donations from themselves and other contributors. The monetary gifts help to pay for the postage for the items and to buy items for future packages. Several volunteers said they would take a package home and mail it themselves to help out even further with the project.
They began the project of Operation Home Support in April of 2004. They send packages to soldiers overseas who are residents of Emery County or who have loved ones in the county. People submit the soldiers names and addresses to the auxiliary and they take it from there. They have served hundreds of soldiers since the beginning and currently have nine soldiers on the list for the Christmas packages.
They send out six-seven packages a year at holidays and Veteran's Day to each of the soldiers.
Some of the soldiers they have sent to are on their second or third tour of duty and some of them have arrived safely back home.
Random packages without names cannot be sent and homemade baked items cannot be sent. A soldier's name must be on the package. The auxiliary has been involved in a number of fund raisers to get funds to mail out the items. They have held bake sales, yard sales and other events. They also place donation boxes out to collect the items to send. Some of the items include packaged goodies, music CDs, socks, pictures, books and other items the soldiers need.
The boxes are filled to capacity and ready to mail.
They include a personal letter to the soldier in each box. The letters are written by the ladies in the auxiliary. They have received many thank yous from the soldiers who have received the boxes. One picture had the soldier holding the box he received with a big smile on his face. The ladies try to include different items in the boxes each time.
The Christmas boxes include a fleece blanket the ladies made with the initials of each soldier on their blanket. Some of the soldiers don't ever receive any letters or packages from home. Hess said many of the soldiers they send to, share their boxes with the other soldiers.
"I know they appreciate what we are doing and what we are trying to accomplish. This is a very rewarding project. We appreciate all the help we have from the volunteers," said Hess.
Those currently serving in war zones with connections to Emery County include: Richard Larson, parents, Chuck and Vicki Larsen, Ferron; Jason Swegle, wife: Stacy Swegle and mother-in-law Joy Bloomer, of Ferron; Jesse Thompson, mother, Deanna Thompson, Castle Dale; Ryan Stream, parents, Steve and Carol Ann Stream, Huntington; Dustin Nielsen, parents, Shane and Laurel Nielsen,Castle Dale; Jason Larsen, parents, Russell and Kathy Larsen, Castle Dale; Robert Sterbutzel, Don and Jean Morlan, Ferron, mother and father in law; Anthony Ritzdorf, wife, Brooks Ann and mother in law, Ann Behling of Ferron; Skyler Carpenter, grandson of Ron and Joanne Carpenter of Huntington.