By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer
Bitter temperatures at OOIDA headquarters didn’t stop volunteers from packing the first round of Truckers for Troops care packages headed to U.S. troops stationed overseas.
On Feb. 8, Nikki Johnson, who coordinates the Truckers for Troops care packages at OOIDA, said that nearly 360 boxes were mailed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Those boxes, which weigh about 60 pounds apiece, will serve up items for approximately 4,000 U.S. troops.
Besides the 28 volunteers who helped pack the boxes, OOIDA Member Steve Gilbert, a 38-year trucking veteran, traveled from Ottawa, KS, to OOIDA HQ to help. His job was to seal the boxes once the care packages were assembled.
“I am still on cloud nine from the experience,” Gilbert said. “It’s the least I can do to help our troops.”
Gilbert said one of the highlights of his day was including a personal message in a care package that was being sent to the son of Steve Sommers, a familiar trucking radio personality.
“I had someone take a picture of me loading the box on the pallet that is headed to Steve Sommers’ son in Afghanistan,” Gilbert said.
Some of the items included in this round of care packages were socks, peanuts in the shell, cotton swabs, shampoo, beef jerky, hot sauce and eyeglass repair kits.
Johnson said some of the “fun” items, like party string and sidewalk chalk that were included in previous care packages, are being used by U.S. troops on the front lines.
“Troops were using the sidewalk chalk to mark the buildings they had already cleared with an X, and the party string was going to be used to check for trip wires, which could save lives,” she said.
Also included in the care packages were cards and letters from school-age children, which are always a popular items among soldiers receiving the boxes.
Third-grade teacher Jane Dixon, and two other teachers at Stony Point Elementary in Grain Valley, MO, had their students make cards to include in this round of packages headed to the troops.
Dixon said her students were inspired to “do more” to honor those serving their country after participating in a Veterans’ Day assembly in November 2010.
“They knew this was something they could do to make a difference,” Dixon told Land Line recently. “Children have the most generous hearts.”
Gilbert plans to be back on the second packing day in April. And there may be a third round of care packages that will be sent out in 2011, depending on funds, Johnson said.
“We have learned a lot and come a long way since our first packing day,” Johnson said. “This year we will triple the number of care packages from the first year’s number of 212 boxes that we sent out, which is amazing.” LL