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JAMESTOWN – With the community’s help the Blue Star Mothers in Chautauqua County put together 831 care packages for troops overseas; with one local student trading in her Christmas presents to help make the effort possible.
“Over 300 people showed up today just to pack a box, many are packing more than one,” said President Susan Rowley.
So many people have come together to make this event possible, including Southwestern High School Senior Melissa Devore who for the past five years has donated money normally spent on her Christmas presents to the cause.
“The feeling of knowing how many people this is helping, keeps me coming back every year,” explained Devore.
Devore, including her mom, brother and boyfriend Drew, continued their annual tradition on Saturday.
“The first year she was in eighth grade when her mom contacted me,” explained Rowley. “We asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and she just wants to donate to the troops.”
Since then, Devore has helped put together 1,000s of boxes with everything from personal care items to notes and letters hand written by area school children enclosed.
“I like to look for the ones that have a lot of color in them from younger kids, I they are very cute. This one has a cute reindeer sticker on it,” explained Devore, as she continued down the packing assembly line. “You have many options of like jerky sticks, especially the Slim Jims, they are really good at filling the corners of the boxes because you can put a lot in.”
From there the boxes are loaded with things like granola bars, trail mix, fruit snacks and candy, a treat Devore loads up on.
“Don’t forget the toothpaste to counteract all the candy,” explained Devore’s mother.
As the family makes their way to the end of the line items like packets of coffee and hot coco and things like notebooks and pencils are added filling the package to the brim.
“I think about how excited the soldiers are going to be, about all the things that are in here, all the delicious food, snacks and candy,” said Devore.
Once boxes are taped up and shipped out, they are sent to troops overseas like U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Charles Watkins who recently returned from the Middle East.
“It is touching, it is neat to receive that stuff when you are overseas,” explained Colonel Charles Watkins. “It is very special to know that those back home are remembering.”
When soldiers write back, thanking Blue Star Mothers like Fairlee Fischer, those handwritten messages seem to resonate the most.
“These are from little kids, they are thanking the service men for their service and not being home with their families,” explained Fischer.
The group doesn’t specifically know where boxes end up, they just know the impact it makes.
“This is Christmas right here,” explained Kathy Kollver. “This is where Christmas starts for so many families.”
In addition to the hundreds of volunteers and donors, the Blue Star Mothers thank Fluvanna Community Church for providing the venue, Jamestown Container for their cardboard boxes, Jamestown Rubber Stamp Company for handling shipping, and Beichner Waste Services who helps recycle anything left behind.
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