Anyone who's ever been away from home knows how nice it is to get a letter -- or even better yet, a care package from someone "back home."
With that in mind, on Wednesday, March 5, a group of students and volunteers from Missouri Valley College helped Tamara King, history professor at the college, pack 17 boxes full of treats for United States soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The Missouri Valley family likes to take care of it's own," she said, explaining that the soldiers receiving packages are MVC former students, alumni or brothers, sisters, boyfriends or girlfriends of students and staff.
One of the soldiers who was sent treats Wednesday is the husband of an MVC teacher.
The volunteers explained that each box has to go to an "actual" soldier or will be returned, so addresses are obtained from MVC students, faculty and staff.
However, she said the care packages, which have been sent each month since September, are shared.
"All of the boxes get shared with other guys in the squad," she said.
King helped organize the group's effort after talking to a former Valley student, Eric Giangrosso, who was home from a tour of duty in Iraq. He had told her about many of the things soldiers need when serving in harm's way especially in the harsh desert climates.
With that information in mind, the monthly boxes include socks, baby powder, lip balm, baby wipes, magazines, newspapers and books.
They also send cookies, snacks, candy, gum, dried fruit, pretzels, jerky and other treats the soldiers can put in their cargo pockets to have while on patrol. In the hotter months, the volunteers send Red Bull to the soldiers who said they need a pick-me-up for their long shifts, but coffee is too hot.
The supplier to Hustler's Sports Bar and Grill in Marshall sold the Red Bull to the group at cost, and gave them a case free, said King, adding that is just an example of the many people who have contributed by donating money, time or items.
Some buy the snacks while shopping for their own families at places like Sam's Club.
"People just keep us in mind when shopping," she said.
The homemade cookies are made each month by MVC faculty members.
"The Missouri Valley and Marshall community has been on board with this effort," said King.
MVC accounting students are also involved, auditing how the money contributed is being spent.
"If people are going to donate, we want to make sure there is transparency," she said.
The Missouri Valley group isn't the only group in Marshall remembering local soldiers serving overseas.
Kathryn Carroll of Marshall and a large group of volunteers send about 25 boxes a month to soldiers. They started sending packages with the first Gulf War and started again with the current conflict.
Carroll said she is always wanting the names of soldiers from Saline County -- those who currently reside here, and those who have grown up here, in order to send packages.
"We try to send to the overseas soldiers," she said, adding that they currently send packages to Iraq and Afghanistan, and will soon be sending packages to Kosovo.
Both Carroll and King said they hear back from the soldiers often.
"We had one soldier who called us from Baghdad, because there was a cookie he particularly liked," said Carroll. "He said he'd share everything else, but not those cookies."
Soldiers have also come to MVC and made presentations to classes while home on leave.
"The last guy brought pictures and videos of firefights and told the whole story," said John Simpson, a staff member of Missouri Valley and one of the volunteers.
Both King and Carroll are quick to point out that it is not "their" effort, but the work of a large group of contributors and volunteers.
"People have even given us money while standing in line at the post office" said King, adding others have grabbed packages and paid shipping costs.
"In no way could I do this alone," added Carroll.
Anyone interested in volunteering or contributing to the MVC effort can call King at 831-4166.
Carroll suggests people contributing money to her group make checks out directly to the U.S. Postal Service. She also would like people to send her the names and addresses of area soldiers now serving overseas, along with a local contact name and number for that soldier.
The names and contributions can be left at Marshall's Post Office or sent to Carroll at P.O. Box 394, Marshall, MO 65340.
Contact Marcia Gorrell at firstname.lastname@example.org