Being a U.S. Air Force veteran who spent several years in Vietnam during the war, John Thompson knows all too well what it means to receive a package from home, with home being family or anyone from the U.S.
He recalls getting packages from the United Service Organizations during his deployment.
“It brightens your day. It’s a big morale booster,” Thompson told me. “When you open that stuff up, you love to share it with your friends.”
Now, as a member of the Knights of Columbus 15732 of Holy Family Parish in Shorewood, Thompson is able to return the favor and give back some of those special reminders of home to our troops deployed overseas.
Thompson is one of eight committee members of the 94-member Knights of Columbus in Shorewood who make sure our troops get some good, old-fashioned love and necessities twice a year. The group holds a drive in the spring and at Christmastime to collect everything from food items, magazines, books, hygiene products for men and women and even underwear.
Many of the troops are stationed where there’s no access to even necessities, let alone comfort items; there are no post exchanges operated by the military nearby.
So when they get a box from home, it means a great deal to them, Thompson said.
This spring’s drive, which has already been delivered to Operation Care Package in Manhattan, was the biggest collection since the Shorewood Knights began participating in 2014.
This time, they collected 1,500 pounds of food and other items to send, plus $2,145 for Operation Care Package to use toward postage (each package costs an average of $17 to mail overseas). Other members of Holy Family Parish made monetary donations directly to Operation Care Package.
“We filled three huge metal mail bins, a table and several carts,” Thompson said. “It was quite substantial; by far our biggest drive to date.”
What makes their care packages more special are the letters and notes written to our soldiers which are included in the Knights boxes. The letters are written by school and religious education children of Holy Family Parish and decorated with stars, hand drawn flags and notes that thank them for protecting our freedom.
Holy Family parish is very supportive of the Knights’ project, Thompson said, but there are several other Knights of Columbus groups in the area that do the same kind of projects to support our troops.
“When you hear a good idea, you do it,” Thompson said.
One of the four principles of a Knight is charity, he said, and Operation Care package is a program that fits that bill.
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and issues in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.