JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — Before they marched in the parade on Saturday, members of the community joined together to create Christmas care packages for active duty military members around the world.
The Lake Erie NY Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America host care package packing event annually, and continue to grow each year according to President Susan Rowley.
“For the last couple years we were a little down because of COVID and we were hoping that maybe, everything’s kinda opened up a little but and everybody, I’ve had more people contact me this year to say we really wanna be a part of this, and we welcome everyone with open arms to come and be a part of this,” says Rowley.
Sixteen years ago, when the moms started packing boxes, they sent 38 to troops deployed. Now, the group regularly sends between 800 to 1,000 during the holidays.
Julie Reynolds, who has two nephews in the military, was among those lending a hand.
“You see kids and adults and dignitaries and you see Girl Scout Troops, Boy Scout Troops, Fire Department members, volunteer members from the Fire Department. It’s amazing,” says Reynolds
While the snacks and personal care items enclosed are essential, the letters mean the most to recipients.
“That’s what we see hanging up on the walls with them in front of them with our thank you picture. They really mean the most, and that’s why they go in last so it’s the first thing they see when they open the box. They know that love went into that box,” assures Rowley.
In addition to sending packages to a New York National Guard troop currently deployed, the Mothers area also mailing boxes to a K-9 unit this year for five military dogs that will include toys and treats.
Not only does this group support military members, but they also come together to support each other.
“Sometimes it’s that one person, doesn’t matter where you live. I mean our kids serve all over this world and Blue Star Mothers, we meet for our conventions. We are sisters, we make bonds with people from all over the United States. We are sisters and we understand each other because of what we’ve lived through. We started a circle in the beginning here and it’s all about being in the circle and understanding each other and supporting each other,” explains Rowley.
Members of the Buffalo/Niagara region Blue Star Mothers, Annie Gross and Judy Kogler, stopped by the Fluvanna Church to lend a hand.
“We did ours on Thursday and it’s definitely smaller scale. We sent out 125 packages but we still do our packaging event as well,” says Gross.
Connecting with the moms in her own group, and across the region, is vital, especially during the holidays.
“Both of my sons are in the army and when my oldest one went in, I don’t know what I wouldn’t have done if I wouldn’t have connected with my Blue Star Moms. They help me keep it together, and it made the second son when he went in a lot easier,” says Kogler.