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Troop Support - Blue Star Moms Send Bits Of Home
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Jane Gonzales proudly shows the variety of what each Care Package contained prior to being taped up and labeled for shipment to active duty troops through the local Blue Star Moms effort. - photo by Contributed

Troops both abroad and stateside will be treated to a touch of home this holiday season.

Thanks to the efforts of Emmy McDaniel, Alicia London, Mid-Cal Blue Star Moms volunteers and generous donations. Both women, along with fellow military moms and a handful of helpers, have spent the last month and a half collecting, sorting and as of late boxing goodies for men and women in uniform.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” McDaniel, local charter founder and president, said of received donations. “We have had phone calls and e-mails every day, since this appeared in the paper (Oakdale Leader Nov. 12 issue).”

On Saturday, McDaniel and crew boxed the final donations and when it was all said and done, it totaled a collection of 79 Priority Boxes that were completed for mailing.

“It’s really been overwhelming,” she said. “The response from the community, especially since we only had two drop off locations.”

It was the first time the group did a large scale effort and they didn’t know just what to expect.

“We had said, if we had only like 10 to 20 packages that would be great,” McDaniel confessed. “Honestly, we hoped if we just had enough to send our own kids that would be great. This is the first time we’ve done anything like this, so we really had no clue.”

As McDaniel spoke of the varying items donated and the volume which the boxes held, emotions are evident. A project close to home for the military mom, who had simply set out to let a couple dozen troops know they were thought of back at home.

“Magnolia school and the letters they wrote were so sweet,” the Blue Star Mom said. “There was one class that did their own little care packages. Each Christmas bag had a movie, socks, a can of soup, chapstick … I think with artwork from each child on the front. Seeing those made me really emotional. They love getting stuff like that.”

Of the 79 boxes packed and shipped, approximately two-thirds will be sent to troops overseas. Those boxes were sent to addresses in Afghanistan, Japan, Guam and Guantanamo Bay. As an added bonus, the group was contacted by an anonymous donor who offered to cover as much of the cost of the flat rate postage as possible.

“Any donations that came in specific to postage are honored,” she said. “That is an expense that donations are really helpful for.”

McDaniel indicated that while the holiday collection has ‘officially’ wound down, so that packages make it to troops in time for the holiday, collections will be done throughout the year.

“The biggest lesson was in the kindness and the huge response,” she said, chuckling. “We need a better game plan in the way of a storage and assembly facility.

“It would be nice to have a storage space or an all-inclusive location. We didn’t expect to have so much to assemble. I just thought I’d put it all in Clayton’s (her active duty son) bedroom since he’s not home.”

Yet with the few hurdles they faced and the time spent, a few hundred serving will be treated to the comforts of home. Be it through a favorite old movie, bowl of soup, toiletries, snacks or a hand written note they will indeed be reminded ... there’s no place like home.

For additional information regarding Mid-Cal Blue Star Moms Chapter 39 e-mail or call McDaniel at 209-595-3764.