According to the retired first sergeant who spearheads the effort in Barry County and who prefers to remain anonymous, more than 1,000 shoeboxes were shipped with supplies for the soldiers. The total topped the record set last Christmas of 904.
"Thanks to all of you in Barry and Lawrence counties who helped spread Christmas cheer to our 89,000 Americans serving our country in combat," the retired first sergeant said.
Volunteers gathered on Dec. 15 to sort, pack and address boxes with Shoeboxes for Soldiers founder Rhonda Luttrell at the Nixa Family Pharmacy Warehouse. Boxes were filled with blankets, socks, Christmas decorations, treats, games, hygiene items, and most importantly cards, letters and notes thanking them for their service.
"It was an exhausting and rewarding day, and we are sure that the efforts will really be appreciated by those who are defending our freedom," reported the retired first sergeant. "We included in every box a note from former Korean P.O.W. Alvin Schad, thanking them and wishing them a safe return home. Many of the boxes also had notes and pictures from children."
On Dec. 17, word reached local organizers that the first shoeboxes had reached soldiers.
"We heard from a local mom that her son had already received his Christmas Shoebox For Soldiers care package and he was quite surprised, excited and very thankful," the first sergeant reported. "Alvin Schad received an e-mail from a soldier in the combat zone that expressed her thanks for his service as a Korean POW, and she also was very happy and elated to receive the Shoebox care package."
Donations of more than 70 boxes and $1,225 were accepted locally at the Monett and Pierce City National Guard Armories, UMB Bank on Broadway, Monett FFA, Monett Walmart, the Bayou Restaurant, First State Bank on Cleveland Avenue in Monett, Freistatt Lutheran School, Purdy Flowers and the Purdy Farm Center.
"Many thanks to all of you who helped. Continue to keep the troops in your prayers," the first sergeant said. "If you have ever been in the service away from home on the holidays, you know how lonely and homesick you are. Mail call is often an anticipated and joyous occasion when you hear from home just like you see on MASH or depicted in the movies. Imagine the joy and excitement when you receive a package from a perfect stranger thanking you and letting you know that your service has not been forgotten.
"Many donors have made lifelong friends by including an email or return address so that the Shoebox recipient can contact them and let them know just how special and timely that their gift was," the first sergeant continued. "We are hopeful that you will hear from a service member that received your note."
The next Shoeboxes for Soldiers drive for Fourth of July will start in May 2013. For more information, call 417-389-0517 or visit www.shoeboxes4soldiers.com online.