Written by Jan Cuomo and Chris Simone Friday, 25 December 2009 00:00
What started as a routine concept—sending care packages to U.S. Troops—culminated in an overwhelming and enthusiastic show of community support to bring some holiday joy to our brave men and women stationed overseas.
Recently, Cub Scout Pack 101 launched “Operation: Shoe Box;” each Scout received a plastic shoe box, filled it with various hand-picked items from a list of several categories, signed a special “Thank You” note under the lid and returned the box to the Pack for shipping. Besides an array of “general,” “toiletry” and “comfort” items (soaps, brushes, hand sanitizer, eye drops, etc.), the boys selected a wide assortment of “treats” such as Pringles, power bars, Fig Newtons, trail mix, popcorn—and kindled their creativity with “fun stuff” like games, poker chips, puzzles, DVDs, books, tennis balls, copies of the Manhasset Press and, of course, a fair share of newspapers hailing the Yankees’ World Series victory and even complimentary Yankees caps.
But, by far the “personal touch” category sparked the most touching treasures. They included colorfully decorated handmade holiday cards, handwritten letters about the Scouts’ families and pets and expressing sincere thanks and warm wishes, photos of the Scouts in uniform saluting and even handcrafted ornaments and holiday decorations. The boxes were as unique as snowflakes and each shined with its own personality. And, over two dozen extras were filled by Cub Scout friends and siblings keen to participate in the project with several adding a female touch to the contents earmarked for servicewomen.
Adding to the overall motivation for the project was the community’s positive interest and eagerness to assist. Raindew Family Centers graciously offered a sizeable discount on the purchase of “Operation: Shoe Box” items — prompting participants to cram their boxes to the point where each required shrink wrap to keep them from bursting open. Also, each box was sweetened with a liberal sprinkling of assorted candy donated by local nutritionist Maria Dello, who annually collects leftover Halloween candy to use for charitable purposes. Next, our local American Legion Hall gladly opened its facility as the final local shoebox drop-off point and packaging center for the mountain of heavy-duty shipping cartons, provided at a discount by Extra Space Storage. And, freight costs were defrayed by generous donations from Cub Scout parents coupled with deep discounts from the U.S. Postal Service, whose personnel made the required overseas Customs process a pleasure. We are grateful to all.
In total, an overwhelming 128 shoeboxes were collected! After filling11 large cartons weighing nearly 600 pounds, they were shipped to Manhasset’s own Air Force Major Cameron Dadgar and the 23rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron stationed in Iraq. With an expected arrival date for the holiday season, the boxes aim to ease their recipients’ rising holiday homesickness. The joy in these parcels far surpasses their physical contents.
Accompanying each carton of treasures was a sincere message from Pack 101 to our Troops: We understand that “freedom is not free” and that our liberty exists only because of your brave service to America; “we hope you can take some small comfort in knowing that we value your service, think of you every day, pray for your safety and success and look forward to your safe return home.”
Although our Troops cannot be home for the holidays, hopefully these heartfelt packages will bring home to them.