NASHUA — Dozens of volunteers gathered on Friday to prepare more than 1,500 holiday care packages for soldiers stationed overseas.
“This effort isn’t about us — it is about the guys and gals over there serving our country,” said Ted Luszey of Hudson, president of Operation Care for Troops.
Red Christmas stockings were filled with socks, gum, protein bars, hot chocolate, toothbrushes, trail mix, tissues and more. Also stuffed inside of the stockings were encouraging, handwritten notes and letters from students throughout New Hampshire.
“Those are a huge hit with the troops,” said Luszey, adding the soldiers often decorate their tents or barracks with the notes from home.
This is the fourth shipment of care packages being sent this year from Operation Care for Troops, according to Deborah Luszey, who helps oversee the massive packing events at the Nashua National Guard site each quarter.
With so much negativity in the world today, she said it is refreshing and rewarding to see so many good people spend their time volunteering in an effort to help individuals serving our country.
“We started out with a plan to ship 1,200, but now we are beyond 1,500, which is typical during this time of year,” she said.
The care packages, complete with candy, card games, noodles, oatmeal, drink mixes, tissues and canned fruit, will cost up to $18,000 to ship, according to Ted Luszey, who said shipping costs have doubled in recent years.
Most of the boxes will be sent to U.S. troops in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, while others will be mailed to soldiers in Syria, Libya, Korea and Egypt.
About 140 volunteers will be helping throughout the three-day packing event that continues this weekend.
Cyrilla Prescott of Manchester has been volunteering with the organization for about five years, helping to organize the cards that are included in the care packages.
“I just wanted to give back,” said Prescott, whose father was in the military.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan joined the volunteers on Friday to help prepare the care packages.
“It gives a whole new meaning to Santa’s Workshop,” she said after packing some of the boxes.
She praised the volunteers for a successful, grassroots operation that supports the troops and gives them something to enjoy while so far away from home.
“At a time when fewer than one percent of Americans serve in the military, it means that most American’s don’t have a connection to somebody who is serving, and this is a real way to build on that connection,” added Hassan.
Operation Care for Troops, formerly MooreMart, has packed and shipped more than 75,000 care packages to soldiers, in addition to more than 8.5 tons of humanitarian aid to schools, orphanages and clinics in the war torn regions of the Middle East.
The Luszeys, who became active with the organization in 2003, started because their son in the Army was deployed in Iraq for more than a year.
Ted Luszey thanked businesses such as Tuscan Kitchen, Comcast, Optics One, local hospitals and other companies that host annual donation drives that collect various items that are included in the care packages.
“Every penny we get goes to postage or (package) content,” he said, adding Operation Care for Troops also applies for grants to assist with the shipping costs.