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A decade of care packages for soldiers comes to an end in Jaffrey

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

    Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.

    (Staff photo by Carole Allen) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)
  • Volunteers put together care package for soldiers stationed overseas on Saturday at the American Legion in Jaffrey. This is the 10th consecutive year the event has been held.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Carole Allen)

JAFFREY - Packages for Soldiers volunteers gathered for the last time at the American Legion John Humiston Post 11 in Jaffrey on Sunday to pack cookies, brownies, candy, along with the more practical amenities of soap and deodorant, for soldiers serving stateside and overseas.

The mailing of care packages to soldiers has been a tradition in Jaffrey for more than 10 years now, ever since Caroline Hollister of Jaffrey first suggested it at a Town Meeting..

In 2001, following the tragedy of 9-11, there was an atmosphere in the air, said Hollister in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Monday. It seemed the country would enter into a war at any moment, she said. Hollister’s her husband, Clay Hollister, is a veteran of the Vietnam War. And recalling the treatment he received as a soldier, Hollister wanted to ensure that any men or women who signed up for the imminent conflicts in the Middle East knew there were people back home pulling for them.

“When the soldiers returned home from Vietnam, no one would talk to them; they were called horrible names. These guys were vilified,” Hollister said. “This time around, there is no draft. These men and women have volunteered. They understand they’re putting themselves in harm’s way. It’s become fashionable to not like the military, but these people are hardworking and loyal. I wanted to be sure they knew we were thinking of them in a positive way.”

Hollister stood up at Town Meeting in 2002, and asked for the names and addresses of deployed servicemen and women. She gathered about 60 names, with a plan to send each of them a care box. She and another volunteer began advertising their intent, hoping to learn of other soldiers who might be in need of care packages, and to attract other volunteers to help pack the boxes and donate supplies.

“I had no idea who was going to show up. I was hoping, since we had 70 or 80 people to send boxes to, that we could put together one box for each and receive enough donations to cover the postage,” she said. “I was overwhelmed when there were almost 100 people flooding into the VFW.”

Since then, the tradition has been held in good stead., At its height, volunteers were sending out hundreds of boxes to servicemen and women twice a year. But now, most of the soldiers the group has been sending packages to have returned home, with only four still away.

“At one time, we had boxes like you wouldn’t believe,” said organizer Tammy Devlin in a phone interview Monday. “This weekend, we had under 10. The numbers have greatly diminished.”

Hopefully a year from now, those deployed will be back home, and there will no longer be a need for care packages, Devlin said. With that in mind, on Sunday, Veteran’s Day, the group met for a final time to box toiletries and home-baked goods to send to those still in the service.

“I’m actually very happy that there’s not a need for it anymore,” said Devlin. “But it’s been wonderful to see so many people come together over the years to do a great act of kindness, especially because as you’re doing it, there’s no immediate thank you. It’s a lovely thing to do something kind for someone else.”

Hollister agreed. “It’s sad to see it stop because it was a wonderful time of fellowship and support, but in another way, I’m glad to see it stop, because it means our soldiers are coming home,” she said.

While Devlin said there’s no immediate reward, that doesn’t mean the group’s work wasn’t appreciated, as soldiers have written back, thanking them for the packages and letters. Some have event returned home over the years to express their appreciation in person.

The group also sent boxes to Wounded Warriors Ministry in Germany, to cheer up soldiers recuperating from war wounds there.

Although the group will no longer be meeting to prepare care packages, they have donated all of their left-over supplies to the American Legion, and anyone interested in sending a package to a soldier still deployed can contact the legion about sending one, said Hollister.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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