What can we do? How can we help? What are we doing to support our Troops?
Those were the questions Pioneers in Wisconsin were asking when we sent our troops to war in Iraq in 2003. Many people wanted to do something – ANYTHING – to help show that they cared. After a few conversations between Jeannette St Onge and Karen Schilling, our care package project was born.
It started out small and simple. A Company email was sent out to all Pioneers in WI, telling them that we would begin to send care packages to friends and family members who were deployed to Iraq. We came up with a list of supplies that we were told were needed or wanted. We asked people to send us the mailing information if they wanted to put someone on the list to receive a Pioneer care package. Our Pioneer Building Reps set out collection boxes, posted the list of supplies that we would like to ship, and the project was under way.
Once a month, a group of Pioneers would meet in Milwaukee on a Saturday to sort the supplies, pack the care packages, and mail them out. We averaged about 12 – 15 boxes a month. The first Christmas, four Pioneers met in a conference room in Madison and wrapped the donations in Christmas paper, added some Christmas cards, and packed special Christmas care packages. That year, we sent 14 boxes out for Christmas. Later the project was shifted to Madison and we began the daily mailings. We sent one package a day, Monday through Friday.
My, how we have grown! Karen retired four years ago and moved the project home to her basement. We now send two care packages a day, six days a week. Twelve different deployed personnel in Iraq and now also Afghanistan get Pioneer care packages every week. On December 5, 2009, we mailed 144 special Christmas boxes! Quite an increase in numbers, isn’t it!! As of 02/22/10, we have mailed 4,870 care packages to 1,192 different people (although some have been on our list two or three times!). This project continues to succeed due to the tremendous support it gets from Pioneers across the U.S. along with friends and family who are generous with their donations of supplies and dollars. Many fundraisers in various locations raise money to help pay for the shipping of all these care packages.
The project evolved to also include sending birthday cards to those who are spending their special day so far from family and friends. To date, more than 9,992 birthday cards have been mailed to our heroes so far from home. Nothing like getting over 30 pieces of mail over a week or so to make them feel loved and remembered! And that is just from the Pioneers and friends – it doesn’t count what they get from their families.
The project that started as Adopt a Soldier, then became Helping Our Troops, and is now H.O.M.E. – Helping Our Military Everyday – continues to be a wonderful, caring project that touches many hearts, not only those who received our care packages, but the hearts of each and every person who continues to make this such a successful project. Pioneers care.