Those serving in the United States Military are always on the minds of many, but when it comes to the holidays, they are especially missed by loved ones, and respected for their commitment away from home. The case is no different for Bravo Company 1-128 IN BN, a group of local soldiers recently deployed to Afghanistan until summer of 2020.
In order to help those soldiers feel the holiday spirit away from home, Bravo Company moms, Debra Minnick and Jill Steel, organized an event dedicated to collecting and sending holiday care packages to the soldiers overseas for the holidays.
“In September, we were told that our Family Readiness Coordinator resigned,” said Minnick. “Normally, she would have been the one to get the holiday care packages going. I was concerned our soldiers wouldn’t have any, so I asked the exiting coordinator who to contact. She gave me VFW Post 10818 Commander Ron Ramos who told me that Karen Cline, the treasurer, might be overseeing it this year.”
From there, Minnick found her team for the event including Auxiliary members Karen Cline, Jen Donaghue, Gayle House, and Jill Steel. Though they had a plan in place, and a group to organize the project, there was still plenty to do in order to collect, package and send the 98 packages to Bravo Company.
“Jill and I were given the green light to run with the care packages idea this year,” said Minnick. “They said they usually do it every year, but never had a group this size before…Initially, we put out an email to all the points of contact for the unit – 98 families – but we only got four responses for interest to help.”
The lack of response didn’t deter Minnick and Steel, however. Together they took the initiative to press on to get the packages to the troops for the holiday.
“We decided we wanted to go forward and make this happen for them,” Minnick said. “We wrote several donation letters over the next two months, personally visited businesses and collected items from our communities where these guys grew up, work, and still live…Then, I created a Facebook event to recruit packing volunteers and on November 16 we had our assembly event at Paperjack Elementary School [New Richmond.]”
That event would be the moment where Minnick and Steel would see if their hard work would pay off. Fortunately, they were pleasantly surprised at the outpouring of community volunteers who showed up for the event.
“We were blown away by the support from our communities,” said Minnick. “We had 27 volunteers respond to a Facebook invite, but we actually had 72 volunteers show up in person that day with many more donations in hand! It was a huge success and was bigger than we ever thought it would be.”
Overall, the event received donations from more than 60 donors including VFW Post 10818 and its Auxiliary, Family Fresh Foods, First National Community Bank, students, staff and parents at Paperjack Elementary School, Ideal Credit Union, and many more to exceed their package goal for Bravo Company. Though Steel and Minnick spearheaded the event, they especially thanked the donors and Auxiliary women House, Cline and Donaghue.
“Without their wisdom, experience and help, these two Bravo Company moms who had the big idea to make this happen would still be in that school gym today packing boxes!” said Minnick.
Because of the dedication of these Bravo Company moms, the VFW and community volunteers, those troops will be a part of the celebration during their deployment. For Minnick and Steel, that means knowing their sons, Jason Stanton and Michael Steel, along with their fellow soldiers, will feel remembered during the holidays. “Everyone thought it was just a ‘feel good’ day,” said Minnick. “It’s so heartwarming to see the support for our soldiers and see something positive happen.”