It’s hard enough to imagine living thousands of miles away from your family while putting your life on the line every day. But imagine never receiving any mail to brighten up your day from loved ones back home.
This thought led one woman from Wisconsin to start Support the Troops WI, a nonprofit organization that creates and sends care packages to soldiers all over the world.
In 2007, LeAnn Boudwine’s sons, Michael and David Scott, were deployed overseas, and the dedicated mother of four regularly sent them care packages. When Michael and David shared that many of their comrades never received mail, Boudwine felt compelled to start sending boxes to other soldiers as well, and Support the Troops WI was born.
She began creating the care packages by herself in her home. Today, over ten years later and long after her sons have returned home, Boudwine’s project has expanded with tremendous heart. Support the Troops WI now operates out of a donated warehouse in the back of a local ice cream shop in downtown Hartford, Wisconsin and is run by Boudwine and a team of volunteers.
Just today, the group mailed out their 10,000th (yes, you read that correctly!) care package to the troops, with a Wisconsin native as the recipient. On this huge milestone, Boudwine tells Babble, “We feel very blessed to have mailed this many care packages.”
The postage and care package items are provided through donations from the community and local businesses. Boudwine says they have a wish list of items, including snacks, toiletries, T-shirts, socks, card games, local newspapers, holiday decorations, and letters from local school kids (her personal favorite to include).
“Every box is different,” she says. “I always tell people when we are putting them together, make them neat and make it a ‘gift’ from you … around the holidays this may be the only box they receive, make it special.”
Boudwine explains that no matter the branch of service or location of deployment, Support the Troops WI will send a care package to anyone serving our country. She says her hope is to raise soldiers’ morale, provide them a bit of comfort from home, and let them know they are appreciated. Her organization’s slogan: “They’re Still There, We Still Care.”
Boudwine often receives thank you notes from the brave men and women who receive these packages. “I’m humbled by their kind words and thanks,” she says. “They send amazing letters … pictures of them and their surroundings and [they] tell me about their units. I sometimes get to hear about their families, that’s the best, I love hearing about their kids …”
For Boudwine, family is everything. Two or three days a week, she babysits her grandkids and often takes them with her to the Support the Troops WI headquarters where they help pack boxes. “They really know how much this means to me and that it’s good to give back,” she shares.
Often, Boudwine works on care packages at night or on weekend mornings, as she works part-time during the week as a bookkeeper. Between picking up the many donations and making and sending out the care packages, “ there never seems to be a slow time,” she tells Babble.
Luckily, Boudwine says she has an amazing network of family and friends, and a group of volunteers that has been there from the start. Other volunteers come and go, but regardless of how long they stay, Boudwine is grateful for all the hands that make this project possible.
“I have met so many awesome families and have even been lucky enough to meet some of my care packages recipients when they returned from overseas,” she shares.
As long as donations continue to come in and people continue to send the names of family members and friends who are stationed overseas, Boudwine says Support the Troops WI will continue doing what they do.
“I never thought I’d send 10,000 care packages,” Boudwine reflects. “I’m just a mom who wanted to help.” She goes on to say, “I really can’t believe that we have come this far. I never take for granted the donations … no one could do this alone, it takes a village. Or in my case a caring, giving, compassionate community.”
To learn more about Support the Troops WI, visit their website.