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Loyal group sending cheer overseas

Loyal group sending cheer overseas Loyal group sending cheer overseas

The holiday season is back in full swing, and soon families all across the country will be coming together to celebrate and spend time with the people they cherish most. But for some, the holidays will be spent far away, perhaps even on the other side of the world, as they work to protect the freedoms that our country stands for.

To make sure these brave men and women are not forgotten, especially those members of the Armed Forces who come from our area, the Loyal Family Consumer Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), are working on a project to send CARE packages to these soldiers in time for Christmas.

This is the second year in a row that the FCCLA has sent CARE packages overseas to area soldiers. Donna Odeen, the advisor to the FCCLA, said the group had just started up three years ago and had been looking for good service projects to do. After one of the members suggested doing more for veterans, Odeen brought up the idea of sending out CARE packages.

“It’s the second year we are doing it,” she said. “The kids wanted to do things for the vets and this is what we came up with. People send packages to the soldiers each year. We ourselves used to send them overseas to the soldiers over the years. As an individual, it’s hard to do that, but I thought wouldn’t it be cool if we did it as an organization.” To get started, Odeen said she got in contact with a few military families she knew of in the area and asked them for some guidance. They gave her a list of items that soldiers typically will need or want sent to them and a list of several active military members from the area and addresses to send the packages.

“I’ve got a list that I got last year from Nancy Olson with her connections to the military,” she said. “She got us a list of what soldiers would use, and we put a collection place for it in the school.”

After getting the list, the FCCLA worked to spread awareness about their project and brought in items of their own to donate to the soldiers. At the end of the drive last year, the group had managed to get enough items donated to send out six CARE packages to soldiers deployed over the holidays.

“We had six boxes last year,” said Odeen. “We shipped out four to our Loyal boys and one for a man from Greenwood who we got an address for. We had one extra box that we sent to a base camp. We got that information from the Clark County Veterans Department.”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO While the FCCLA was content with just doing a good deed, Odeen said the project really had an impact on the local families and their sons who were overseas. A few of them even sent pictures of themselves to the group after receiving the packages, showing their gratitude for the unexpected kindness that was shown to them.

“Their families were grateful we did the project,” she said. “They saw that their kids are being thought of. Three of the boys sent pictures of themselves with their boxes when they got it, they had one of the other guys take a picture when they got it. That was cool.”

This year, Odeen said the plan was to continue to send CARE packages to local soldiers, but was unable to find anyone from the immediate area who would be deployed over the holidays. Contacting the local military families again, she said they were eventually able to direct her to another military family who annually sends CARE packages to soldiers from all across Wisconsin and was able to get a list.

“This year, we did it again, but we didn’t have any names of Loyal people,” she said. “We decided to try to use Facebook to get the message out. There were a lot of likes and shares, but no names. I got in touch with Nancy again and she got a list from the Palmisano family from Florence. Their son Eric was killed in action in 2005 and they have sent thousands of CARE packages to troops overseas. They gave us a list. We have a number of them from Wisconsin, there is a man from Unity. They’re still from Wisconsin and they won’t be home for Christmas.”

Odeen said through the project, the kids involved with the FCCLA have come to learn more about the sacrifices and day-to-day needs of soldiers deployed overseas. Looking at the list of needed and requested items for the first time, she said many of the students were shocked to learn about the things soldiers miss from home, and the lack of some basic items they never would have thought of.

“Some of it was surprising to see what a solider needs,” she said. “I was talking to Mr. (Doug) Dieckman, who is still active in the National Guard, and I asked him about it. He said on the base it’s one thing, but when you go out on an excursion, sometimes you couldn’t get this stuff.”

Some of the items included on the list included high energy snack foods such as nuts and trail mix, dried and canned fruit, granola and cereal bars, and 5-hour energy drinks. There is also a need for basic hygiene items such as tissues, deodorant, foot powder, toothbrushes and toothpaste and baby wipes. The soldiers also appreciate other items such as eye drops, nasal/throat spray, lip balm, sunscreen and bootcut cotton socks. The full list of items that are needed can be found on the Loyal School District Facebook Page.

Collections for the CARE packages started up again at the beginning of November and will be continuing until the first week of December, when Odeen said the FCCLA will package the donated items into boxes and have them shipped out. The packages will then arrive in time for Christmas, letting those soldiers know their countrymen are thinking of them and their sacrifices.

“Last year we started after Veteran’s Day, this year we started a little earlier,” she said. “I would like to get the items before the end of the first week of December and send it out. We also want to include cards in there thanking them for their service.”

While the drive is not over yet, Odeen said she knows there has been a challenge in getting items collected for the CARE packages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of students have been out of school for long periods of time, making it more difficult to get items in, but she said the students have been making an effort to try to bring in at least one new item every day.

“I know that everyone is struggling this year with COVID, it really has put a damper on our drive,” she said. “There’s so many students out at one time, it makes it a little bit of a challenge to collect items. I’m hoping for lots more, every day there is more in there. We’re so proud of our students.”

People still interested in donating items to the FCCLA project can drop off items either at the Loyal School District or at the American Legion, who is partnering with the FCCLA this year on their project.

Loyal FCCLA members Haven Peroshek and Paige Smith show some of the items that will be sent to toops overseas.