Bags of beef jerky, Slim Jims, hard candy, foot powder, body wash and lip balm may not seem like a gold mine, but it can mean a world of difference half a world away.

The items were just some of the things the Carlisle AMVETS Post 274 Ladies Auxiliary suggested could be donated to troops currently deployed overseas, and a collaborative effort answered the call to donate those items and more to troops.

The donation collection

effort was sponsored by the Saint Patrick Church Sacristans, the AMVETS Post 274 Ladies Auxiliary and the Saint Ignatius of Loyola Military Ministry. Frank Castrina, a member of the military ministry, explained that the ministry has been involved with the project since shortly after it was established a few years ago.

“We’ve called it ‘Gifts to the Manger,’” Castrina said. “Parishioners bring gifts and put them at the manger in the front of the church, and we collect them through Advent.”

Donna Baker, a member of the ladies auxiliary, said that students at St. Patrick School also have designated donation spots.

Donations

The military ministry is provided a list from the ladies auxiliary with items that are really sought after by troops currently deployed, Castrina said. Items on this year’s list include various snacks, disposable cameras, sunscreen, foot powder and flashlights.

“We collect those items specifically,” Castrina said.

As members from auxiliary compiled the donated items onto a small table, it seemed clear that donations this year were a success.

“It’s terrific,” Baker said. “The kids did a really great job, and we are so appreciative of it. They’ve done this for us every year, and each year it gets better.”

Seeing so many donations was particularly comforting for Amy Hurst, a ladies auxiliary volunteer. She has a brother that recently returned from Afghanistan, but may be going back overseas. She also has a friend that was recently deployed to Afghanistan, which gives the packages a sort of sentimental value to her.

“My brother being in the service, I really appreciate this kind of stuff,” she said.

The ladies auxiliary has 692 names to send packages to, making it the largest shipment of care packages it has sent at one time, according to member Donna Moyer.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to do it for them, and they really appreciate the care packages,” member Sis Grove said. “Anything they can get, they enjoy it because it comes from home, knowing that people are thinking of them and didn’t forget about them.”

Grove said that as soon as all of the donations are compiled, packages can begin to be sent to the troops. She estimated that they should begin to be sent out in about a month.

While it has been said that the troops may be pulled out of Afghanistan by 2014, the importance of the donations has not lessened, according to Hurst.

“They’re still over there, they’re still working, they’re missing their families,” she said, adding that donations may also be important when troops come home.

Baker agreed.

“It is a big help to the soldiers to receive things that they normally can’t get when they’re out and they’re in places where they don’t have any of the comforts of home,” she said. “Since it’s so unsure as to when they’ll be coming home and how soon, they’re going to need all the comforts of home they can get from us.”

Those comforts of home, according to Moyer, make the soldiers feel great. She said she will often get emails or letters from soldiers explaining that just opening the package put a smile on their face. She called the donations a “wonderful thing” that is done for troops.

More donations for the cause

As the Carlisle AMVETS Post 274 Ladies Auxiliary began examining the donations for the 692 soldiers, Castrina said that each year seems to get a little bit bigger as far as donations and names go. Last year, he said he was not sure how much was donated. Judging by what he has saw and heard, this year seemed to be a success.

“From talking to the ladies that pick this stuff up, they seem to indicate it’s a very large amount,” he said.

While the amount may be large, donations are still being accepted. Baker said that items that are accepted for donation include food items that will not spoil, as well as medicinal supplies like foot powder and lip balm. Monetary donations are also accepted, as she said they can be used to buy items that were not donated otherwise and to pay for shipping. Grove said that those interested in giving donations should call her at (717) 243-3788 or take donations to her house at 68 Greenfield Drive, Carlisle.

Even if it’s just a $5 box of Slim Jims, Hurst said that any donation goes a long way.

“They’re over there for you,” Hurst said.

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