Carroll, a longtime Saline County resident who spent 33 years as a teacher at Hardeman and another nine at St. Peter School in Marshall, began a donation effort during the first war in Iraq, "Operation Desert Storm." During the current conflict in the Middle East her effort to provide for those in the military has grown.
"I started out with some of my former students who were in the military during the first [Iraq] war," Carroll said. "I would hear of friends and relatives who had soldiers overseas and I added them to my list."
Carroll, who paid all expenses out of her own pocket, said once she renewed her charity efforts with the current Middle East conflict, it quickly became the family project that exists today.
"As it grew, it became more expensive," she said. "My sisters, Vivian Kane, Mary Bleazard and Georganne Edwards and her daughter Gretta Boggard and my sister-in-law Fran Vogel, we all made it a family project."
Carroll said the group now sends boxes of various items to soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan on a regular basis.
"We send boxes every month by priority mail. Two flat rate boxes or one bigger box," she explained. "It takes 14 to 16 days to get there and it's a family project we all enjoy doing. In our packages we [send] enough for eight people."
Not only is Carroll getting assistance from family members, but she also is receiving support from some area businesses.
"McDonald's and Sonic have both contributed," she said. "McDonald's gave me a lot of things. All I asked them for was mayonnaise packets and I got towelettes, cookies, mayonnaise, jelly, honey and toys for children."
Carroll said she sends the boxes over to any soldier whose name she is given by church members, friends or even strangers.
"With my very first box, I introduce myself so they won't be afraid to open it because they don't know me and I don't know them," she explained. "I send to people we don't know, that's why we have to introduce ourselves."
Carroll said certain items can't be sent to servicemen, for obvious reasons. "Everything we pack, we have to make sure there's no moisture in it because it will mold," she said.
Carroll and her family members also send special boxes overseas during the holiday season or birthdays to help soldiers cope with the loneliness that comes with being away from their respective families.
"We try to make the holidays special for them," she said. "We send the Christmas boxes decorated in red and green tissue with various items like red and green cookies and Halloween boxes decorated in orange and black. I also ask the soldiers for their birthdays. When I find out, we send them a one-pound box of Russell Stover candy."
Carroll praised the soldier's efforts and urged others to get involved in similar projects.
"Anyone can do this and the soldiers are very grateful for this. They've given up their families and friends for us, so this is the least we can do is send them boxes and our prayers," she said. "It doesn't take any talent. It just takes time and caring."
Items put in boxes going overseas consist of homemade treats, including cookies of all kinds, candy and trail mix. Other items include, vacuum packed nuts, dried fruit, caramel corn, Pringles, crackers of all kinds, individually-packed fruit cups, tuna and chicken in cans with pull-top lids, mayonnaise and relish in individual packets, jelly and honey in individual packets.
When the weather is cooler, it includes summer sausage and beef sticks. Every box includes extra zip-lock bags to be used however the soldiers see fit.
Other items sent include large size wet wipes, talcum powder, foot powder, eye drops, Chapstick and vitamin A and D ointment for heat rashes.
Also, when possible, the boxes include, magazines, yo-yos, paddle balls, stress balls and a deck of cards. Every box also includes a short devotional reading to start the day, inspirational cards and a note saying that they have people praying for them back in the states.
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