CUMMING — A majority of Americans support the troops deployed oversees, but not many bake cookies for them.
On Thursday, the Treat the Troops Southern Style organization gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 in Cumming to pack care packages for military personnel stationed abroad. Organizer Linda Jones said the event was a chance to show them they still have the support of those on the home front.
“We’re packing these with cookies, candy, cereal bars, thank-you notes,” Jones said. “We’re filling it with love to show them appreciation.
“We have letters and thank-you notes to let them know that people at home appreciate what they’re doing and they’re not forgotten.”
Jones said her husband served in Vietnam, where he was thankful to receive care packages from his mother, especially homemade cookies. However, Jones said the intention of the group was to send something to those who may not regularly receive packages.
“Can you imagine standing line, day after day after day at mail call, and you never hear your name called? Everybody around you is rejoicing with their goodies, and everything they have, and you just kind of slink off and [think], ‘Nobody cares about me, I don’t matter to anybody. I’m just here,’” Jones said.
During the packing events, she usually reads thank-you letters from troops who have received the packages. This time, however, she brought Lt. Cheryl Collins of the U.S. Navy Reserve, who served in Afghanistan in 2011.
“I was so fortunate when I was there to have that team of people praying for me and sending me care packages almost daily,” Collis said. “So when I see something like [the boxes], it’s hard not to get emotional, because that means people care about you at home.
“I know that that makes such a difference, when they go to that mail call, that it the brightest part of their day besides when they get to hit the hay at night,”
Collins brought along photos of soldiers, including coalition forces from Germany and other countries, receiving the treats.
“What we do when we get these, we don’t hog them we share them with everybody,” Collins said. “So you’re not just impacting the U.S. when you do this, you’re impacting our coalition partners too, people that don’t have their country’s support sometimes or don’t get care packages. We get to love on them through you guys.”
After the event, Jones said the group had packed 215 boxes, totaling 25,800 cookies. Since August 2012, the local effort has sent 2,224 boxes and 258,198 cookies.
Still, Jones said the group wasn’t doing it for the numbers or praise.
“We don’t do it for the thanks,” she said. “But when we get a thank-you note or a card or an email telling us, ‘I was having such a horrible day. I did things today that I’m not going to share with anybody and I got back to the barracks and I didn’t get anything. But my bunk buddy did and he opened that box and up and smelled those cookies and read that thank you and shared them with me, it made my day.’”
The next Treat the Troops packing events are set for 7 p.m. June 25, Sept. 24 and Nov. 19 at the VFW post on Dahlonega Highway.
Participants are asked to bring homemade cookies (six per twist-tie baggie), candy, individual servings of packable food, travel-size toiletries and letters or cards of appreciation. Tax-deductible postage donations also are needed.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go online at www.treatthetroops.org.