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While the FCCLA was content ….

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.