A Brighter Christmas Courtesy of VFW Auxiliary, Operation Care for Troops

November 27, 2015


by Lynne Ober

Once again, the Auxiliary at Pelham’s John H. Hargreaves Memorial VFW Post 10722 has engaged the entire community in ensuring that American servicemen and women stationed overseas will have a brighter Christmas and know that everyone here is thinking of them.

Every year the Auxiliary participates in Operation Care for Troops, which began as MooreMart, a family effort to provide needed but unavailable supplies to the co-founder’s brother serving in Afghanistan.  This year they filled 318 stockings for service people overseas with gifts and personal messages of support.

MooreMart expanded as the brother’s fellow soldiers were requesting items, and the grassroots effort of the co-founder’s family, friends and local community volunteers were sending care packages to fulfill these requests.  Soon, the word spread and care packages were being sent all over the world to deployed service men and women in harm’s way.  Ten years later the group continues to supply soldiers worldwide with a little bit of home making their job and deployment a little easier.  Recently the group transitioned into Operation Care for Troops with the same message and same level of caring.

Filling 318 large stockings was indeed a community effort explained Auxiliary President Madeline Dreusicke.  Ken Kondret, manager of Walgreens, donated more than half of the large red stockings that were used.  School children in Pelham Elementary and Memorial schools as well as in several other schools in Londonderry, Manchester and Salem wrote messages and made cards.  Every stocking got at least four cards/messages from home.

“Together we filled 318 stockings which contained 636 pairs of white socks, 636 packages of Ramen noodles, 318 dental kits consisting of toothbrush, toothpaste and floss, 954 protein bars, 318 movie-size boxes of candy, 1,272 packages of hot chocolate, 954 packages of instant oatmeal, 1,590 packages of Crystal Light mix and 954 beef jerky plus four to five cards (per stocking),” smiled Dreusicke.  “We had cards left over, but each of those will also have a stocking as we will take them with us to the Armory, and they will be placed in stockings that are filled at the Armory.”

Dreusicke has been organizing for so many years that she has developed a fool-proof system that runs like clockwork.  The day prior to putting the stockings together, she marshals her troops, who are students wanting to complete community service hours.  This year Joey Katin, Erik Olson, Amanda Olsen, Rachel Chubb, Emily Hayes, Tyler and Charlie Katin helped package items into ziplock sandwich bags prior to the arrival of the “troops” who would assemble the stockings.  “They worked about five hours helping me,” said Dreusicke.

Then the night of assembly, everything is laid out.  Dreusicke carefully instructed her volunteer troops on exactly how to assemble the stockings and then Laura and John Spottiswood, Ginny Smith, VFW members Madeline and Jorg Dreusicke, Lenny Pitts, Dot Carter, Jackie Blanchette, Judy Woodbury, and Representatives Lynne Ober and Charlene Takesian, along with Red Hatter Dot Hill, and Pat Campbell and Phil Blanchette began the work.  Stocking by stocking the volunteers visited each station, put the items into the stocking, and then each filled stocking was carefully put into a box for shipping.

“We just couldn’t do this without all the volunteers and all the community members who made donations,” explained Dreusicke.  Donations came from VFW Post 10722 and its Auxiliary, the Pelham Community Spirit Group, John and Laura Spottiswood, both of who put boxes out at work and collected items, the Pelham Red Hatters, Diane Chubb, Linda Doherty, Heather Brouder, Lou Longo with Alicare Medical Management, Cindy Lyons, Ginny Smith.  Dental items received from Dr. Ron Randazzo and Dr. Collins in Pelham.  In addition Dr. Randazzo’s staff donated numerous items for stockings.

“Each year as I promote this during the month of November when the Christmas stocking event is held the numbers of stockings as well as the number of folks that donate and participate to support me with this annual stocking event for our troops keeps growing,” Dreusicke said.  “Unconditional support for our brave men and women truly burns bright in the hearts and souls of these folks and I am proud to stand side-by-side and carry out this mission to show our troops … We care.”