Volunteers help make troop packages possible
Additional helping hands from residents at Juniper Village have been provided by 10 women who want to help the Lee Memorial Military Support Program send care packages to the troops oversees by filling more than 2,000 plastic bags full of toiletry essentials.
Military Support Program Coordinator Kim Gaide said since they received five pallets of bars of soap, shampoo, conditioner and hand lotion in June of last year, they decided to add them to the care packages they send out once a month for the troops.
“The kits are put into every care package to our soldiers on a monthly basis as most of our troops live out of their backpacks, so they need these items,” she said.
Since some of the bottles are liquid, Gaide said residents of Juniper Village help bag them, to prevent any leakage from occurring within the care package if there is damage to the box.
She said they continue to work with the residents to put the kits together, which is in no rush because they have been able to give the Military Support Program a month’s worth of kits that are put together in advance.
Daisy Godbee, activities director at Juniper Village said the women line up 30 minutes before the stuffing activity begins on Wednesdays and Sundays. She said the number of women who volunteer their time has grown over the past year.
“We are cross training in case someone doesn’t show up,” Godbee said, smiling.
The women have a system that is followed closely to ensure the stuffing of the bags goes smoothly.
Six women sit at one table as one opens the plastic bag, so a bar of soap can be placed within, which is then handed off to another volunteer who puts one bottle of shampoo and conditioner into the bag.
The next volunteer sitting at the table then places a bottle of lotion into the bag before it is handed off to two other volunteers who close the plastic bag and put it into a box for pick-up.
Three other volunteers fill baskets full of the items to make it easier to grab and place in the bag.
The last of the 10 volunteers, Carolyn Hussey travels back and forth among the three tables to deliver the baskets once they are full and empty to keep the process going.
Hussey said she enjoys volunteering her time because “we can’t do enough for these men and women because they are keeping us safe.”
One of the original volunteers, Ruth Garcia, began helping a year ago because providing assistance to the troops is near and dear to her heart because her husband was in WWII.
Her continued support of helping soldiers began more than 40 years ago when she became a member of the VFW.
“As long as they have troops oversees we will be working,” Garcia said about stuffing the bags full of items for the care packages.
While she closes the plastic bags Garcia said knowing that they are sending to the troops is what sticks in the back of her mind throughout the hour that they spend working on the project.
She said whenever they get to a good stopping place or run out of items is when they stop for the day, which typically is an hour after they start.
Sara Taylor, another veteran volunteer of the project, enjoys it because it gives her the opportunity to get together with the other women and share stories.
Although she had a stroke and lost the use of one arm, it does not stop Taylor from adding shampoo and conditioner to the bag.
“I enjoy doing this … helping service men and women,” she said smiling.
Peggy VeMarie sat in the second seat along the assembly line due to her responsibility of placing a bar of soap in the bag. She has helped the cause since September.
VeMarie said she enjoys volunteering her time because it gives her something to do.
“It kills time and it’s for a good cause and I like doing it,” she said.
First-time volunteer Joyce Loveless said she thinks the project is great.
“You are doing it for somebody,” she said. “It’s not just something to do.”
As long as she is needed, Loveless said she will volunteer her time.
Juniper Village residents Jean Smiley, Lorraine O’Neill, Eileen Basiliere and Ceil Grimaldi also volunteer for the good cause.
Godbee said she is so proud of the women and how well they work together.
The next group of care packages will be sent out on July 19 by the Lee Memorial Military Support Program.
Since May 2003, 34,000 pounds of care packages have been sent to deployed soldiers in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and Japan.