This Saturday will be the third annual Make A Difference Day in Watertown, and organizers are hoping they will get the same type of support from the community they’ve had in previous years.
The event, in which donations are collected and letters are written that will be sent to troops overseas, has been a big success in Watertown through its first two years. Run by Watertown-Mayer Community Education in conjunction with the American Legion, the event has included around 50 volunteers in each of the last two years, who gathered to pack 50 boxes — or 500 pounds — of items each time.
This year’s event will be Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until noon at the Watertown-Mayer High School cafeteria. Community members are invited to show up on the day of the event to help pack boxes with snacks, books and assorted toiletries to be sent to soldiers overseas. Those who wish to contribute but cannot stay to pack boxes can still drop off items to be packed to the high school cafeteria at 9:30 a.m.
“The support has been fantastic,” said American Legion member Dale Hoeft, one of the lead organizers for the event. “It’s increasing every year. We packed 54 boxes last year, which was a little more than the year before.”
In the past, the boxes have been shipped to bases in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. The goal is to try to send the items to local Watertown-Mayer area soldiers, but that can often be a difficult task. The government is not allowed to tell the Legion where specific soldiers are stationed, so the Legion is hoping local parents may be able to provide addresses where the boxes can be shipped.
Last year, most of the boxes went to Afghanistan, but Hoeft is hoping to have some specific soldiers in mind this year. He said parents or relatives of soldiers should contact him at 952-657-2501 if they know where packages can be shipped to reach a local recipient. That information can also be provided to the Community Education office by calling 952-955-0282, or e-mailing Rachel Bender at Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We cannot have access to the names, or where those folks are at,” Hoeft said. “The only way we can get that is from parents telling us where they are.”
Hoeft said that each box that is sent to the troops is packed with a slip that identifies where the items came from. He said several commanding officers have replied in the past offering their thanks and appreciation, which he said is a very good feeling.
The Watertown-Mayer schools have always played a large role in helping collect the items for distribution. Each year the focus has been on a different school, with students bringing in items, and the class that collects the most gets a pizza party.
“The schools have been fantastic with their cooperation in the past,” Hoeft said.
Hoeft added that he’s been impressed, but not surprised, with the way the community has rallied behind the effort as a whole the last several years.
“I think it goes with what’s happening across the entire country as far as recognizing troops and what they do for our country,” he said.
For more information or with any questions regarding Saturday’s event, please call the Community Education Office at 952-955-0282.
Here is a list at suggestion donations that can still be dropped off Saturday:
Beef jerky, beef sticks, chicken pouches, tuna pouches, insect repellant wipes, canned fruit, batteries, cappuccino mixes, disposal cameras, pre-sweetened Kool-Aid, stationery & envelopes, cereal bars, energy bars, cheese spread, chips, snack mix, crackers, flashlights, cookies, dried fruit, plastic bowls and utensils, nuts, instant soup, zip lock bags, instant coffee, creamer, fruit pies, paperback books, ramen noodles, microwave mac & cheese, air fresheners, tea bags, microwave popcorn, hand held battery fan, candy (non-chocolate), gum, Advil, Tylenol, sinus medication, antacids, Pepto Bismol, toys, balls, Frisbees, board games, antibiotic creams, condiments in packets, playing cards, board games, foot powder, boot powder, body powder, baby oil, contact lens supplies, laundry soap, body wash, soap, greeting cards, chapstick, cotton balls, magazines, deodorant, body lotion, sewing kit, mirror, mouth wash, small pillows, nasal spray, wet wipes, prepaid phone cards, shampoo, conditioner, word or puzzle books, razors, shaving cream (tube) toothpaste, toothbrush.
A complete list of appropriate items can be found online at www.ustroopcarepackage.com.