Treasures for Troops Initiative Sends Packages to Those Serving in the Military

Now through Thursday, November 15, items are being collected at the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce and Lowell High School radio station WRWW to be sent to those serving in the military.  Items will be sorted and boxed by Blue Star Mothers.

Collecting for Troops
Jim Carlyle had the idea of collecting items for a local deployed unit after a friend’s radio station in Wisconsin did something similar.  Researching the idea led him to Blue Star Mothers, who already had a process for packing and sending packages. Carlyle, owner and manager of radio station WION out of Ionia, would coordinate the collection of items and Blue Star Mothers would take care of sorting and packing boxes.

This is the fifth year Treasures for Troops has collected items and the second year they have partnered with the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce in Lowell.  New this year, Lowell High School radio station WRWW is also involved in supporting the effort as a drop off location and promoting the event on their airwaves.  

Each year Carlyle has seen an increase in the number of boxes being sent to troops.  The first year 87 boxes were shipped. Two years ago 180 were sent and last year 200 packages were sent to troops.  This year’s unofficial goal is 250.

Packing Boxes for Shipment
Blue Star Mothers Chapter 188 of Ionia, Montcalm, and Kent Counties take on the role of packing the boxes, making sure a variety of items are in each box.  The local chapter started in 2011. The moms involved typically have a connection to the military. Brenda Gibson, the current President of the chapter started volunteering as a way to keep her mind off the stress and worry over her own son who was serving in the Marines.  “I always like to remind people that we are sending our boxes to young men and women who have opted a life of service to their country.” she says. And if people are wanting to contribute but are unsure what to donate she offers the following advice. “When I shop for items for care packages, I shop just like I would for my own child.”  A list of needed items can be found online.  

Those donating are encouraged to include a note to be included in one of the boxes being shipped.  Notes can include a name and address as to who it is from, but it’s not necessarily the norm to receive a response from the person who received your letter.  Although, Gibson did share a letter which was received last year from the son of a good friend of hers. Even if a personal response is not sent, it doesn’t mean the people receiving the items are not grateful – oftentimes troops do not have time to send correspondence.  Each box contains some basic needs and fun items like candy are used as filler to make for a snug fit. Each box is marked whether it is for a man or a woman, but otherwise they are not addressed to specific people.

Volunteers interested in helping pack boxes are needed and welcomed.  The sorting and packing process typically takes place the Sunday after the end of the drive.  Individuals or groups wanting to help can contact Gibson via email (President.mi188@Bluestarmothers.us).  The goal is to pack boxes on Sunday and mail them from the Saranac post office on Monday, November 19.  You can also “like” their Facebook page for more information about the group.

While leading up to the holiday season is the biggest drive for collecting items, Blue Star Mothers collects items throughout the year.  Use the above email address if you’d like to contribute items or money for shipment during another time of year. Most of those involved with the organization have stashes of items at their homes ready to be sent out when needed.  

Display at Lowell High School where WRWW does their broadcast. Photo courtesy of Al Eckman.

Local Partnerships – Spreading the Word
WION is familiar with the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce.  “We’ve had the Lowell Chamber on our airwaves with events for many years, and, we have worked with what is now WRWW radio in Lowell, since before it was a real, licensed station because of the enthusiasm of their advisor, Mr. Al Eckman.” says Carlyle of working with two groups in Lowell this year. Carlyle and Eckman plan on working together on more projects in the future.       

News about Treasures for Troops will of course be spread over the airwaves of WION and WRWW.  High School Principal Steve Gough approved of WRWW students helping with the effort. Promotional recordings have been made and are being played on a regular basis.  Students are also talking about the collection of items during their on-air broadcasts. Additionally, each student at the high school has received a flyer about the collection with the goal of filling donation boxes at the station.  “What a great way to let our service men and women know that we really care about them.” says Eckman. He was enthusiastic about helping Carlyle, knowing there is a large number of veterans in the WRWW listening area. He wanted to show these men and women and those actively serving that their service is valued.  

With WRWW being a community based station, it made sense to become a partner in the project.  It helps bring the community together for a good cause, gives students the opportunity to promote a good cause, and provides needed items (and some treats) to those serving the country.  WRWW is also collecting money through their website from now through November 15.  All donations will be given to Treasures for Troops to help pay for the postage needed to ship boxes to soldiers.  

The Chamber is also promoting the effort in their e-blasts and on Facebook, in addition to being a collection site.  Director Liz Baker says, “Anytime we can give back to our servicemen and women is important especially during the Holidays.  The Greater Lowell Community is always there to serve and give back, being part of this project sends a little bit of our community overseas!”  Donations can also be dropped off at the Chamber building during business hours.

Peter Kooi (10th grade), and Will Jewel (11th grade) with a ‘Treasures For Troops’ donation box. Photo courtesy of Al Eckman.

Live Broadcast to End the Drive
WION has set up a page for additional information. On Thursday, November 15 from 4pm – 7pm, WION will broadcast live from the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce on the Riverwalk.  Student representation from WRWW will be on-hand as guests during this time. Members from Blue Star Mothers will also be present to collect items and answer questions.  Members of the community are encouraged to drop items off during this time and meet some of the people behind the Treasures for Troops program.

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