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Local church sends care packages to troops

By Staff | Jan 28, 2009

While there are many issues facing Americans here at home, there are still U.S. soldiers facing untold dangers abroad.

Thanks to the efforts of a local church, those soldiers have not been forgotten.

Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Archers Chapel United Methodist Church has been sending boxes of care packages to U.S. troops overseas. The effort by the approximately 25 members has truly been a team effort-an effort that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The church has recently received letters of thanks: one from a member of the U.S. Army’s Charlie Co. Evac Platoon, 299th Brigade Support Battalion; the other from the commander of the U.S. Army’s C Battery, 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery.

“Thank you so much for you support,” said Staff Sgt. Jill Mangold. “The things that you have sent mean the world to all of us over here. It’s hard being away from home during the holidays, but it makes it a little easier knowing you care like you do. So we want to just reach out and give you a big hug and say thank you.”

“I wanted to take a moment to write and thank you for your support and your thoughtfulness,” said Capt. Deron Haught. “As many of you know I am in command of a battery of great Americans and I shared the contents of your box with them. Your efforts and contributions have made a tremendous impression upon these soldiers and your generosity makes me proud to be from West Virginia.”

Capt. Haught also sent the church a certificate of appreciation for their work. The church has been honored and touched by the outpouring of gratitude.

“I thought (Haught’s) letter spoke volumes about how much the men and women appreciate the fact that we haven’t forgotten about them,” said church member Mary Thomas. “That was what I got out of it as much as anything.”

Archers Chapel has been in existence since 1859. While it has never been a large church, the members have tried to help their community and make an impact. Sending the care packages is one way for them to make a difference.

“We’ve been doing it for a few years; whenever we could get names and addresses,” said Thomas. “This gentlemen who sent back that letter of recognition, we have his address and then he shares with the troops.”

“Before we’ve done it just a couple of times a year,” remarked church member Sharon Bland. “Now we’re going to try to do it more often because the people are so appreciative of it.”

It varies from year to year how many packages are sent. The church tries to get addresses of service personnel. From there, the packages are sent out.

“I think we sent out five boxes (recently),” said Thomas. “Sometimes we have more addresses and send more. We send them with the intent of everything in them being shared with all of the men.”

“We try to send the packages to whoever we know,” added Bland. “Even if we don’t know the people, if we know someone in our area who is over there, we try to send a goody box. We try to find out what they need from some of the people that have already been over there what they most likely need or could use.”

The important thing is identifying the needs of the soldiers. The military has a few restrictions on what can be sent. It is recommended not to send pressurized items, such as shaving cream. The military helps provide families and friends with a list of items that can and cannot be sent.

“They give us a list. They said one thing: they like beef jerky,” joked Thomas. “It can’t have pork in it, because they are in a Arab country, so we look at the labels. I gave my granddaughter $25 and said go to the dollar store and get as much Slim Jims and beef jerky as you can get for $25, and that is what she did.”

“They use baby wipes, because they can’t always take a bath,” added Thomas. “(They use) chap-stick. They like homemade cookies. In the beginning we were sending headbands, sweat bands and socks. I think, though, that the PX’s have caught up with their needs. Now it’s just boxes (that say) we’re thinking of you.”

The letter from Capt. Haught was special for Thomas, since Haught and Thomas are cousins. She is proud of her relative.

“That Capt. Haught that wrote the letter is a cousin of ours from over in Ritchie County,” explained Thomas. “I was a Haught, so we can always get his address wherever he is. This is his second tour over there. The first time he and his company helped build a school in Kirkuk, and the people were so pleased and so impressed that they named it Haught Primary. He’s getting ready to make Major. He’s going up the ladder and I’m really quite proud of him.”

The project that was meant to bless the troops has blessed the church as well. It is a project the church will continue.

“It really makes us feel good to get their responses,” said Bland. “We’ve already got names for our next go-round.”