More care packages ready to be sent to soldiers overseas
More than a dozen individuals came together Tuesday night to put together 40 care packages for military men and women who are deployed overseas. The effort is part of the Lee Memorial Military Support Program.
Throughout the first three years since the program’s inception, Military Support Program Coordinator Kim Gaide said the organization used to send 150 care packages a month to the troops who were deployed overseas. She said the lowest number of boxes they have sent since 2003 is 40 care packages a month.
“We are doing our best to send out boxes once a month,” Gaide said.
The program has been successful due to the partnerships and relationships Gaide has formed and continues to form with community members and businesses.
She said the program recently became the benefactor for the CVS item of the week, which brought it donations of suntan lotion for this month’s care packages. In addition, Half Time Lounge and the St. Michael Lutheran Church Bible School have also donated items for the cause.
More than a dozen supporters and family members gathered Tuesday night to provide a helping hand in the process of packing care packages for the troops.
One group of volunteers placed items in the post office-ready boxes, so others could place a label of which troops would receive the packages. As the boxes were packed, other volunteers rolled socks together to make sure the soldiers received a pair of socks instead of one, while others checked expiration dates on nonperishable items and bag items that may leak.
Gaide said the whole process typically takes about two to three hours to complete.
Some of the items that were added to the boxes included Ramen noodles, fresh leftover heart candy, prayer books, magazines, a hurricane guide, crackers and white socks. A bag of lotion, shampoo, conditioner and soap, along with a plastic bag of a couple rolls of toilet paper were also added to the package.
Gaide said they put certain items in plastic bags in case something leaks in the package, so it does not ruin everything.
The 40 boxes will take at least eight days to arrive in the hands of the troops.
Gaide, who has worked for the Lee Memorial Health System for more than 25 years, decided she wanted to do something for the troops because her son was in the service for many years before he was honorably discharged and now works in the community.
Since May 2003, 34,000 pounds of care packages have been sent to deployed soldiers in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and Japan.
As the group of volunteers went about their business Tuesday night there was a sense of comradery between all of them, due to everyone personally knowing someone who is currently serving in the military.
Jane and Jim Gasaway began volunteering their time four years ago after their grandson, Army EOD Sgt. Jimmy Gasaway, 22, was deployed. Jim said since they sent their grandson care packages, they thought it would be beneficial to help out with the program, so more soldiers were reached.
“I back her (Gaide) 100 percent,” Jim said.
Their grandson, who is a member of the bomb squad, is currently stationed in Alaska.
Jane said providing a helping hand to the program is very rewarding, along with making her feel good because the troops receive a care package that they can open.
“If they can’t use it, they always share,” Jane said about specific items. “They take good care of each other.”
Beverly Franks and her daughter Reva also joined the group Tuesday night. They have volunteered once a month for the past year to help put together the packages for the troops.
“What she is doing is awesome,” Beverly said about Gaide, who used to be her boss through the Lee Memorial Health System.
The Franks put together three special care packages Tuesday night for friends who are currently serving in Afghanistan. Beverly said this is the first times they have sent care packages to them.
“I know it will make them happy,” Reva said because they had the opportunity to personalize the boxes with items they know they would like. “I am really happy to send them boxes.”
Beverly said her daughter’s friends have became very special to her because they spent lots of time at her house during their high school years.
“I want them to come home safely,” she said.
One of the care packages was going to Reva’s best friend who she has known for five years. They graduated from the same high school in 2010. She said she recently saw her in May when she came home for a wedding and talks to her when she can on Facebook and on the phone.
A volunteer for the first time Tuesday night said she found out about the program after reading about it in the newspaper.
“It is a marvelous organization,” Judy Lennon said.
Lennon said she thinks the care packages put a smile on the soldiers’ faces and makes their day because of the special treats that are placed inside.
She said the care packages also gives them something to show the military men and women that there are people who care about them back home.
“It really says ‘thanks’ and they are appreciated,” she said about sending the care packages.
Now that she knows what the organization is all about, Lennon said she will be returning every month to provide a helping hand.
“There is absolutely no question I will do this every month,” she said.
Items that the Military Support Program are always in need of include wet wipes; bubble gum and hard candy; white socks; toilet paper; chicken flavor Ramen noodles; tuna, chicken, salami, beef jerky and pepperoni meat pouches; lip balm and Chap Stick; suntan lotion; and fruit, pudding, cheese and cracker snack packs.
Donations can be dropped off at the Cape Coral Hospital Human Resource Office at the south end of the hospital near the doctors’ offices. For information, call 239-772-6774.