Friday, November 14, 2008

Christmas Care Packages: 2008

Packing boxes in 2007

It's been 48 hours since the Thanksgiving boxes were shipped! Enough! Time to get off our duffs and starts focusing on Christmas boxes! Chop chop, we have a lot to do!

If you're on the Toys for Troops mailing list, or in my e-mail contacts, you've already received two notices from me today. If you are on those lists, then this is the third time you're hearing this from me:

Christmas Gifts to Soldiers

Sunday, December 7, 2008

(corner of Springfield
and Mattis, Champaign)

We mean to send everyone on our list a box of great holiday goodies! CDs, DVDs, t-shirts, socks, games, letters, and gourmet foodies.

YOU can help by:
  • Purchasing a gift for a soldier, and bringing it to the event or dropping it in one of our drop boxes
  • Baking some cookies or other treats
  • Showing up on the 7th with Christmas wrap, scotch tape, scissors, and a smile
  • Clicking on the button on the right, and sponsor the cost of shipping 1 box
I have downloadable, printable flyers if you are interested in learning more, or sharing this information with your coworkers, church, scouts, VFW, or any other organization.

As always, if you're not from Central Illinois, you can still participate in the merrymaking: If you'd like to send a box of gifts to a soldier, we'll give you a name, address, some gift ideas, and shipping advice. Many from around the U.S. have already started their boxes.

For more information, contact me:

More scenes from last year.

Please forward this blog, or this information to anyone that you think might be interested. What you can do for us in the way of spreading the word would cost us thousands of dollars in conventional advertising. We rely on you to help us avoid that spending, and put our money in better places—like a soldier's mail box!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Post Office Party

Whoo hoo! All of the Thanksgiving Care Packages are on their way to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo. Clint and I spent 90 minutes in the Post Office this morning.

We are becoming Post Office Conniseurs.

First of all, I smartly ordered all of my boxes and forms from However, I stupidly didn't allow enough time for them to be delivered. Monday evening I was still boxless, and running like crazy. When all was said and done, my shipping supplies came from Post Offices in Champaign, Savoy, Tolono and Urbana. Lesson learned; I won't do THAT again!

Also, I've learned that calling ahead is much appreciated. It's good to go when every window is open. Seriously, you just try bringing 70 boxes to the counter when there are only 2 clerks working, and see how much love you get from the people behind you that just need to buy one lousy stamp.

Not much, that's how much.

Andy was our lucky clerk today. He has a niece in Baghdad right now, and contributes to weekly care packages for her.

My secretary, Clint, helped me get Customs Forms together that I thought I'd already finished. My bad.

Here are a few of the boxes we wheeled in.

See those customers behind me? They are happy customers, oh, so happy to be in line behind us.

"Why?" you ask

Here's why:

I gambled this morning: I put this note and a tray full of home-made brownies at the counter, in hopes that it would appease those grouchier, more pressed-for-time customers


Chocolate and a gentle explanation worked like magic. We didn't encounter one cross word this morning. We chatted, we laughed. We shook hands and passed business cards around. People asked me for flyers—and the brownie recipe. They patted my shoulder, and thanked us for all we do.

It was almost sad when it was time for us to go. I gathered up my bag of labels, and announced "We're taking our brownies and we're going home now. Last chance!" while Clint carried the tray down the long line of customers still waiting. A few hedged, then got out of line to grab one before we left

One clerk yelled "Bye, Mrs. Toys for Troops Lady!!"

Sniff. Bye-bye Post-Office People. I'll miss you.

Oh...and uh, pencil me in for December 8. I'll be back with more boxes

And brownies. Definitely, brownies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day & Thanksgiving Care Packages to Troops

I couldn't decide on which title to use up there; this was such an amazing day, on 2 (two!) counts!

First of all, the Lincoln Trail Elementary School really comes through for our local vets. The assembly they put together is amazing. The children accompany in the color guard, and with it, 200 more Veterans. Vets of all ages, and from every branch of the military.

They honored U.S. Veterans by reading letters to them. They honored U.S. Veterans by writing poetry for them. They honored U.S. Veteran's by singing to them. They honored U.S. Veteran's by interviewing them on camera, and creating a video with their answers to such questions as "what did you learn in the military?" and "what did you miss the most?" The video also included snapshots of veterans and their families.

As part of their Veteran's day project, the students have been helping Toys for Troops by collecting items for soldier's Thanksgiving Care Packages. They wrote hundreds of letters, and presented me with all of that, today, along with some money to help send everything.

There were so many wagons that I lost count. And look at all of the loot in just this one!

I thanked them and promised them that their letters would be in the hands of soldiers on the other side of the world, most likely, by the time they sat down for their own Thanksgiving feasts.

And after the event, these Vets thanked me. And I thanked THEM for all they had done for us and our country. I was honored to be in this photo with them.

And off we went, for Phase II of this day:

Box after box was brought in, and merged with donations that had come in from the community in the last couple of weeks:

We are slow at work this week, and I got that A-OK to pack our boxes there. Coworkers joined in the fun.

Here's Kurt, our maintenance guy, and jack of all trades. He can wire, plumb, farm, rebuild your transmission, perform brain surgery and fly a rocket to the moon. And yet my tape gun got the best of him.

Apparently this editor, Heather, also slept through TapeGun 101. She fought the gun, and the gun won:

Uh, twice:

Jessica, Diane, and Kurt finish adding letters, sealing, and throwing on customs forms:

My job: To point at things, and say "do this" and "do that," and make my coworkers do alllll of the work, so I could then pose with the final products:

Me, and the smoking tape gun.

My car, until tomorrow morning:

Thank you so much to everyone that helped this event go so smoothly. Bloggers, friends, and acquaintances forwarded our newsletters and my e-mails. Many "far-away" readers helped by sending their own boxes to soldiers from their own homes.
  • Financial donations covered the majority of the shipping expenses.
  • Care package items were left on my porch, brought to my workplace, and dropped off at the "country casa" as Clint or I worked there.
  • I received homemade cookies from fellow bloggers, in the mail, did cookie runs last night to pick up more, and had even more dropped off today. I have an 8 am run in the morning, will pack the last few boxes, and then it's off to the post office.
It is once again, a joint effort that made this project a huge success. It is because of your contributions that we receive letters such as this one, from A1C Shanna H, just 3 weeks ago:
I just want to let you know and the generous people who work
with you that the all airman I've met through my almost three years in
the military appreciate everything you are doing. From the children's
letters to the homemade cookies, all are packaged with the TLC that we
need and miss. The best part of a deployment is walking into work and
seeing a letter with my name on it. It's a constant reminder to us that
all our efforts are not going down for nothing. And the Americans that
we so proudly fight for are stepping up and showing their own gratitude
with a reminder to the soldiers and airman overseas. I will never be
able to say thank you enough for all your efforts.
I'll close now, with this video, of the students singing to the Veterans as they left the Assembly this morning:

Oh, and P.S.: Our next project starts...yesterday. Christmas Gifts to Soldiers. Get ready for it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ah-HEM! Now that I have the attention of the entire United States, it is time to announce that we are, yes we ARE, sending Thanksgiving and Christmas care packages to the soldiers on the Toys for Troops Mailing list...Every soldier.

You know that I've got a *bit* on my plate. I didn't possibly see how I could pull off 2 back-to-back holiday events in 4 weeks, so I did something I'm learning that is OK to do. I screamed:


Lincoln Trail Elementary School, in Mahomet, IL, responded.

The students at LTES are taking on our Thanksgiving Care Packages as their Veteran's day project. They are trying to collect care package items and homemade cookies enough to make sure that each of 65 soldiers get an entire box of Thanksgiving love from home. They will provide 600 letters, and are trying to collect enough money to send these boxes. That's about $711.

Yes. Of course you can help! Thank you for asking. We're not going to make a bunch of little kids do ALL of the work!! Come, help us help them help us!

  • If you'd like to donate care package items for this project, contact me at A list of care package ideas can be viewed here:
      • If you'd like to sponsor the cost of shipping one box ($10.95), click on the PayPal button in the sidebar.
      • Bakers, bring me a dozen cookies on November 10. 2 dozen, if you're feeling industrious.
      • Send me a note, and I'll send you a printable flyer to post in your office, church, VFW, post office...wherever you'd like to post it.
      • Forward a link to this blog entry to anyone that you think might like to participate.

      We will mail our boxes on November 12, the day after Veteran's Day, so that they can be in soldier's hands by Thanksgiving morning.

      OUT OF TOWNERS, DON'T FORGET: YOU CAN PLAY TOO! I'm e-mailing soldiers' names and addresses to folks right now, from San Diego to Philadelphia, that want to send a care package to a soldier.

      Can I make a bold statement? Shopping for, and sending a box to a soldier is going to make you feel very, very good.


      I am still shopping around for a venue for our Christmas event. We like to send more "luxurious" gifts for Christmas: CDs, DVDs, gourmet foods, socks, shirts, knives, games...anything you'd like to find under your own tree. We'll wrap each gift and send each soldier a box full of presents.

      If you can't participate with the Thanksgiving boxes, you're welcome to throw a little something into the Christmas boxes.

      If you have any ideas where I can throw this event together in this berg, put it in the comments!

      I'll be hitting the streets to figure it out myself!

      See you soon!