Care packages assembled for troops serving overseas

Volunteers assembled care packages destined for troops deployed overseas. (Brian Yocono/WPRI)

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) – Donations arrived by the carload Saturday morning for the annual Operation Holiday Cheer care package drive.

The event is in its 12th year and collects of various items from the public to be shipped to Rhode Islanders serving in the military abroad during this holiday season.

Items sought included typically-Rhode Island items like Del’s lemonade and Dunkin Donuts coffee, but also included more mundane things like bug spray, batteries, crackers and candy.

“When we received boxes and it said it came from Rhode Island, I was just like, ‘oh my God, this is so cool,'” said Major Sharon Harmon, who received the packages three years ago in Afghanistan.

“Nothing beats a taste of home,” said Blue Star Mother Rhonda Ziehl. “Nothing beats Dunkin Donuts and coffee syrup.”

Donations were collected Saturday at the National Guard armory on Airport Road, and volunteers plan to return Sunday morning to package the collected donations up with the help of postal workers. Then they’ll be sent overseas to deployed Rhode Islanders; the Lieutenant Governor’s office, which sponsors the event, estimated that it will cost about $12,000 to ship everything out. That cost is covered by donations.

About 350 boxes will be heading out this year.

Lynn St. Germain-Lundh’s son Brian was serving in Iraq with the Marines when he was killed in 2006. She said that the effects that receiving those care packages had on Brian were apparent.

“I would get the phone calls and some of the calls would just be ‘hi mom,’ and you could tell his mood. But when he received a package his mood was much more uplifting.”

St. Germain-Lundh said she volunteers with Operation Holiday Cheer to continue her son’s tradition of service.

“Brian was the type of person that…Brian gave. So if I can continue to give where he can’t, I want to continue to do that.”

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