By Raiza Giorgi
About a dozen volunteers showed up on the chilly morning of Nov. 13, to help pack boxes that will be sent to deployed troops stationed around the world, including K9 troops.
“I come every month to pack boxes, it’s the least we can do to make sure our troops know someone back home cares for them and their sacrifices,” said volunteer Ruth Kunkle.
Kunkle’s husband is World War II veteran Jim Kunkle, who is a very well-known figure in the Santa Ynez Valley as the 97-year-old fighter pilot still flies his plane.
Roughly 178 boxes were being packaged with no box getting the exact same items, as We Support the Troops founder Pat Sullivan explained each box is specific to an enlisted serviceman or woman.
“They write in letters to us that we go out and shop for the items they need,” Sullivan said. “Most of these soldiers are stationed in places that don’t have a store. There are also restrictions on what we can send, so it’s preferable if people donate they send in money instead of items.”
The recipients of packages are usually but not always connected to someone from the Santa Ynez Valley, whether it’s a relative or a friend or co-worker. Each box sent includes a personal letter.
Sullivan said she will never stop, even with COVID-19 making available grants and donations harder to come by. Their largest grant they get has already informed Sullivan to expect half the amount in the coming year because of COVID.
“There’s always a challenge to overcome and we will get through this,” Sullivan said. “We have some volunteers that are afraid to come, but that’s ok, we will still pack boxes and we will still show our troops as much love as we can.”
Volunteer Kay Reid said even though she now lives in Nipomo, she still makes the drive every month to help pack boxes and then visit her friends or do errands.
“I love seeing the volunteers and knowing that these items will make a soldier happy somewhere in the world,” Reid said.
Jerky is high on the list of favorite things. The weather varies from extra hot to extra cold so the troops also need things like moisturizers and heavy socks. Also included are hand-knitted helmet inserts and scarves of 100% wool, which were knitted by women here in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Volunteers also gather on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Bethania Lutheran Church to prepare and pack the boxes to be shipped. Volunteers are always welcome.
Tax-deductible donations can be sent directly to Sullivan at 2020 High Meadow Road, Solvang, 93460, or made through the website at www.we-support-the-troops.org.
For more information, call 805-688-8404.