The Office of Veterans Services in Gloucester was abuzz with activity Wednesday as seven volunteers wearing festive holiday hats busily and methodically filled box upon box of donated items — goodies and necessities — bound for eight soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
Red and white fuzzy stockings emblazoned with hand-lettered names in gold paint for two soldiers named Jason — while Elbert, Jacob, Nicholas, Brian, Timothy and Jack waited to be filled with treats.
Two soldiers from Gloucester, one each from Rockport and Hamilton, and three from other areas, will receive the boxes, filled with enough items for them to share with their colleagues, said Lucia Amero of Veterans Services.
Also, some packages will go to the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas for soldiers who are being treated there.
The packages are being packed in bulk for each, with items such as 15 pairs of socks per soldier, several blankets plus five sets of gaiters, scarves and helmet liners, too.
Extra items, donated specifically for women soldiers, will be sent to Operation Troop Support in Danvers to be distributed from there, as there were no women to whom the Gloucester center was sending packages to at the moment.
Donated coffee, bubble gum, beef jerky, powdered drinks, candy, travel-sized toiletries and soaps, deodorant, sunflower seeds, granola bars, even special requests such as board games, including Trivial Pursuit and ramen noodles, were being packed Wednesday. Stationery, newspapers, puzzle books, stickers, and flashlights were also waiting to be packed.
Stocking gifts were donated by the Hamilton-Wenham High School National Honor Society, and by the Gloucester and Rockport schools, too. The blankets were donated by Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins.
The care packages, which all contain a special letter from the Veterans Services center, are spread out in three to four boxes per soldier, and are going to be mailed today by another volunteer; they will hopefully be received by the soldiers in about a week to 10 days.
Several local groups, plus some private citizens, donated the cost of shipping, including the Rockport Police Department, and the Gloucester and Rockport Rotary clubs. Volunteer Donna Tulla of Gloucester was carefully printing by hand the labels and forms for each and every box — a minimum of 24 were being prepared Wednesday — for shipment.
Allegra Boverman is the chief photographer and a staff writer for the Gloucester Daily Times. She can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3448, or firstname.lastname@example.org