One Forsyth County woman has taken it upon herself to bring some of the comforts of home to our armed forces overseas.
Over the last five years, Linda Jones and Treat the Troops Southern Style have shipped more than 6,000 care packages containing nearly 800,000 handmade and home-baked cookies.
Every year, Jones, her husband and a battalion of volunteers cram large-sized flat rate boxes full of cookies, snacks, drink mixes, candy, magazines and letters and ship each one off to an individual soldier that could be in any part of the world.
Treat the Troops Southern Style box packing event
When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15
Where: VFW Post No. 9143, 1045 Dahlonega Highway in Cumming
More info: firstname.lastname@example.org
“It’s going to be very busy and very efficient,” Jones laughed. “When we have new volunteers they are always amazed at how smoothly it goes. We have been known to pack as many as 588 boxes … and load [them] on the truck in a little over two hours.”
Everything that goes into the process, from cookies to postage, is donated from a variety of different organizations and businesses in Forsyth County. Preparation for a packing event can start months beforehand as volunteers bring cookies in by the basket load to be frozen and stored until the day that items go out.
“I probably have 600 dozen cookies in my freezer right now,” Jones said with another laugh.
She said that she got started with Treat the Troops 12 years ago when she saw the Forsyth chapter in the newspaper and decided she wanted to get involved. She says that somewhere along the line the original group disbanded, and when that happened she was there and ready to take control.
“We started from scratch. Our very first packing in August of 2012 we shipped a total of 32 boxes with a total of 2,732 cookies,” she said.
Now, the group regularly sends over 300 boxes abroad at each packing.
Jones said that the group never has any trouble getting volunteers or donors for the event and that they have even had four service men and women from the Forsyth area return home and get involved with Treat the Troops Southern Style.
Lt. Cheryl Collins of the U.S. Navy is one of the four that decided to come home and give back.
She said that she saw firsthand while on deployment in Afghanistan and Germany how care packages can keep a soldier going when they are overseas and homesickness sets in.
“It made the most important part of my day going to the mail room … it brought us all the things that we couldn’t get overseas” she said. “I’m always grateful for what they do, and we never take them for granted when we get them.”
Collins said that she met Jones and her husband at the post office when she got back from her deployment to Afghanistan and wanted to send something to a friend who was still overseas.
“I was there mailing just one care package and saw Linda and Robert there and they told me how to get involved,” Collins said.
She said that now when she is deployed, she gives Jones the names of soldiers who aren’t getting packages from friends and family back home.
“When you have been blessed, you want to bless others,” she added. “It’s really awesome to not be forgotten.”
Treat the Troops Southern Style will have its next packing day on Feb. 15, 2018 at VFW Post #9143, 1045 Dahlonega Highway in Cumming.
Jones said that anyone who wants to volunteer for the February Treat the Troops packing or wants to donate to a future packing, should email her at email@example.com.