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Boxes of treats head to troops
Organization packs with pleasure
Pack WEB 1
Carol Schuermann, from left, Mary Beth Plante and Roberta LaBranche pack boxes Thursday night during a Treat the Troops Southern Style Christmas packing event at the local VFW post. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Thanks to local volunteers, nearly 12,000 cookies will be distributed to soldiers and sailors working overseas.

Treat the Troops Southern Style, which asks area residents to give homemade cookies and other treats for shipment, held its final cookie packing event of 2012 on Thursday night.

Linda Jones, founder of the organization, which is a chapter of the national Treat the Troops nonprofit, said volunteers prepared more than 115 boxes for servicemen and women at the VFW post on Dahlonega Highway.

That was a record breaker for the new chapter, said Jones, who’s been involved with the national organization for about six years.

“Our area has grown so much that we can accommodate more than one or two chapters [in metro Atlanta], so I started Treat the Troops Southern Style back in April,” she said. “This is our third official packing under that name.

“At the first one, we did 37 boxes and at the second one, which was in October, we did 47. So this more than doubled our record.”

Volunteers make homemade cookies and collect candy, beef jerky, other treats and small games for the boxes. They then gather about once every two to three months to pack as many boxes for shipment as possible.

“I want to fill every nook and cranny with something they can enjoy, so that’s why we do the extras like candy, hot chocolate and grits packets,” Jones said.

Some boxes get filled with toiletry items, including small toothbrushes, socks and eye drops. There are even canine treats for the soldiers’ service dogs.

And every box gets at least one note or card of appreciation.

“We want the soldier, when he or she opens that box, to know they’re appreciated and supportedw,” Jones said.

Dave Brown, one of the many volunteers during Thursday’s packing event, understands firsthand the importance of that appreciation. He served on a Navy hospital ship from 1963-67 during the Vietnam War.

“I can’t tell you enough what this means to any troops,” he said. “If I was over there now, I would probably be crying if I got one of these boxes, to tell you the truth.”

Volunteer Martha Amerson said helping the organization is an easy way for anybody to give back.

“If you can bake some cookies and make somebody happy, it’s like the easiest thing you can do,” she said. “It doesn’t take that much time and my husband gets to eat the mistakes, so he’s happy.”

Jones said the packing events take on even more meaning during the holiday season.

“To think of these soldiers — men and women, who are volunteers, and putting their lives on the line to serve and protect us — and they can’t be with their families, with their friends, sometimes their new babies,” she said.

“Anything that we can do to just give them a little reprieve, a little calm, a little taste of a cookie from home, it just means so much.”