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Volunteers Box Up Hope, Taste Of Home For Troops
At the Riverbank headquarters of American Veterans First, volunteers gathered for a care package event on Saturday, Jan. 21 where they packed boxes to send to the troops. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

There was a box packing event hosted at American Veterans First (AVF) in Riverbank this past Saturday, Jan. 21. Volunteers were on hand to fill care packages with a variety of items that will be shipped out to active military service men and women.

CEO Paige McLaughlin noted that before the packaging began, all the volunteers gathered and each organization shared information about themselves. There were volunteers from USMC Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support, Mid-Cal Blue Star Moms, California Valley Patriots, Victory Bombshells, Disabled American Veterans, and Cal Guard along with AVF members.

“The uniting consensus was that none of us are an island, nor do we compete with one another,” said McLaughlin. “We are spokes in a wheel, with the common goal to give back to our active-duty military members, veterans, and first responders.”

The sun was out and so were the volunteers on Saturday. AVF headquarters was all abuzz with people milling around with boxes in hand. There was a line of bins with goods like toiletries, hot sauce, chips and all kinds of goodies that the volunteers used to fill the care packages as well as books, magazines, and cards.

“The event was a great success,” stated McLaughlin. “It took just under two hours for these enthusiastic volunteers to pack 100 boxes, 13 of which were specifically for females and seven for K-9 military members. We all enjoyed laughing, exchanging stories and ideas, and networking with each other.”

McLaughlin noted that she met Teri Palmer, the mother of Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II at the grand opening of the museum at AVF. Then later in the fall, Palmer spoke at an AVF board meeting. At that meeting they voted on hosting a care package event this month. USMC Cpl. Charles O Palmer II Memorial Troop Support Program is also a 501c (3) that collects items and monetary donations. They have a care package event once a month and it costs $20 to mail each box.

“We love sending care packages to our military members,” remarked McLaughlin. “They (packages) are a way of letting them (troops) know, yes even the K-9s, they are loved and appreciated. We’ve been told that one of the items they cherish the most in the boxes they receive are the handwritten notes. Many of them tuck them away in their trunks to read again. We all made sure to write notes to put in the boxes we packed.”

Although McLaughlin is not a veteran, she has a son that has been in the Navy for the past 16 years.

She said, “Our service members stationed stateside still aren’t ‘home.’ They get lonely too. It’s important to remember that they appreciate receiving care packages as well. Military addresses change often, so it is important not to hold on to a package too long before sending it.”

For those that are interested in sending a service member a care package, contact Teri Palmer at

AVF Volunteer Karen Knox added several handwritten cards to the packages that will be sent to troops, bringing them a taste of home and a word of encouragement. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
The care packages that are sent out to active military service members feature a variety of items. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
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Charilyn Damigo with Mid-Cal Blue Star Moms was in good spirits and assisted in filling the care packages for the troops this past weekend. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS