The holiday season can seem very distant for those serving the nation who are far from home and the families they love.
That’s why a group of open-hearted Southold residents are coming together to send care packages to soldiers stationed overseas this holiday season.
A new Facebook page, “Holiday Collections for Deployed Soldiers,” has been set up by Claire Kennedy and Patty Hocker, both of Southold.
The pair are collecting donations through Sunday for the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton; the packages will be sent to those deployed during the holidays.
Drop off locations include Southold Pharmacy, Southold Free Library, Wendy’s Deli, Southold Fish Market, Skippers (Saturday only), Beachwood Masonry, and North Fork Roasting Companh.
Items should be sent in original packaging.
“No homemade goodies are being accepted this year,” Kennedy said.
In addition to the items listed, the pair is also collecting cash to defray shipping costs; so far, the Southold American Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary has generously donated $500, Kennedy said.
Some ideas for donations include:
Food and drink selections such as cocoa, instant coffee, tea bags, creamer, lemonade, Gatorade and iced tea, ramen noodles, seasoned salt, individual packets of hot sauce, mustard, relish and ketchup, energy bars, tuna fish, sardines, non-perishable beef jerky or beef summer sausage, which must be labeled USDA Beef, chips, pretzels, nuts, snack cakes, cheese crackers, cookies, salty snacks, candy and gum; avoid chocolate. Since candy may soften, send in plastic Ziploc bags.
Small, hard containers are easier to carry than large containers; avoid bags. Send extras for service members to share.
Also welcomed are travel-sized containers of personal care products, but avoid aerosol cans. Cover the openings with plastic wrap, then recap before shipping. Such items include toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, cotton swabs, shaving lotion, disposable razors, shampoo, individually packaged tissues, individually packaged baby wipes, eye drops, lip balm, lotion, aspirin or other pain relievers, feminine hygiene products, foot care products such as moleskin, medicated foot power and athlete’s foot ointment, disposable hand warmers, goggle-style sunglasses, 100-percent cotton socks and underwear, fingerless gloves, stocking caps, and long underwear.
In the entertainment category, gifts of paperback books, current magazines, comic books, word games, crossword puzzles, word searches, jigsaw puzzles, foam footballs and basketballs, frisbees, hacky sacks, playing cards, yo-yos, size AA ad D batteries, notepaper, envelopes, pens, pencils and stamps are good ideas.
Personal notes, children’s artwork, letters or cards containing positive, upbeat messages, and the Sunday comics always bring smiles.
Kennedy said gift cards are a good choice, to sites such as Amazon, iTunes, and Best Buy, so those serving can buy gifts for their families or find something they need or want.
It’s the second year Kennedy and Hocker have teamed up to spread holiday cheer: Last year, they sent packages to members of the 102nd Air Force intelligence wing in Cape Cod, where Kennedy’s husband Tom is a major with the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
The North Fork community has already opened their hearts with generosity, Kennedy said. “We already have two carfuls,” she said, adding that donations will be accepted until Sunday, when they’ll be packing up the cars and preparing for Monday’s delivery.
Children have also poured their hearts into the project. The entire third grade at Southold Elementary school wrote cards, with members of the ROTC in Mattituck, Southold and Greenport writing letters. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts have all pitched in, working on projects and cards.
“It’s just nice to read a positive, uplifting message when you’re away from home,” Kennedy said, adding that children’s carefully colored artwork is a treasure to those far from the twinkling lights of Christmas trees.
The packages will be shipped at the end of November, Kennedy said.
Giving back is its own reward, she added. “It’s just a good thing,” Kennedy said. “Families at home will feel good, knowing people are paying attention to their loved ones. Giving back to people that are giving the ultimate sacrifice makes me happy.”
And, she added, the North Fork always steps up to help others, not just in the holiday season, but all year long. “I feel proud to be part of such a great community. The outpouring of generosity from everyone is heartwarming,” she said.