The halls of Almond Valley Christian Reformed Church in Ripon, Calif., rang with the hustle and bustle of 50 fifth-graders filling nearly 100 care packages.
The packages will bring a touch of home to troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The effort is spearheaded by church member Nancy VanderVeen, who has been sending a packages to troops for five years. The church has sent more than 600 care packages to troops and another 167 packages of school supplies to children in Iraq.
Care packages include beef jerky, pillowcases, oatmeal, drink mixes, hand sanitizer, shampoo, lotion, batteries, hard candy, and gum.
Blue Diamond Growers, headquartered in nearby Sacramento, also donates almonds for the packages.
“The best request I received from a soldier was for Tabasco sauce. Now I look for small plastic bottles of that,” said VanderVeen
Students from Ripon Christian School fill the boxes as part of their Spiritual Emphasis week. Students receive a name and a box and then they get to “shop” for the solider, filling the box with goodies and toiletries.
Each package is sent to a service man or woman whose name is given to VanderVeen. “I get the names and addresses from anyone I know or see. One day as I bought 60 cans of deodorant at Wal-Mart, the clerk looked at me rather quizzically. When I explained I was sending them to the soldiers, she told me of a neighbor's friend over there. I eventually got that name and address. I constantly remind people to ask around,” VanderVeen said.
The cost to send a box is approximately $11.00. That cost and the cost of the supplies are covered through donations from the church and the community.
“The thank yous we receive are heartwarming. [Soldiers] are always very grateful to receive anything from ‘back home,’ wherever that might be,” said VanderVeen.
VanderVeen finds it interesting that soldiers never complain. “They are grateful for what they have there, and are especially grateful that they are able to serve their country and fellow man,” said VanderVeen.