Caring for soldiers

Rachael Peters, left, Emma Tringali, center, and Kaitie Hansen gather items at a recent drive for Care Packages for Soldiers Overseas. Peters was the 2015-16 Pay It Forward treasurer, Tringali is the 2016-17 Pay It Forward secretary and Kaitie Hansen was the Pay It Forward event coordinator for 2015-16. A drive is set for Saturday at Walmart in Marquette Township. (Photo courtesy of Heather Montgomery)

MARQUETTE — People walking through the doors at Walmart in Marquette Township on Saturday can help Michigan soldiers stationed abroad.

The annual Care Packages for Soldiers Overseas is scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day outside Walmart, located at 3225 U.S. 41.

Leading the effort is Northern Michigan University junior Heather Montgomery, a social work major who is Pay It Forward president.

The Care team, she said, will hand out lists of items they are collecting to people entering the store and explain their purpose — helping troops from Michigan who serve overseas.

“When they’re shopping, they can pick up an item or two, and when they come back out, they just drop it out back to us and we put it in the boxes,” Montgomery said.

These are items collected at a recent drive for Care Packages for Soldiers Overseas. A drive is set for Saturday at Walmart in Marquette Township. (Photo courtesy of Heather Montgomery)

Money donations too will be accepted and used to send a student veteran to a Student Veterans of America national conference, which usually takes place in January, she said.

“We’re trying to get early fundraising for that,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said she started the event, which is in its third year, when she was a freshman.

“Before, we got donations from different places around Marquette, and then last year, we started doing it outside Walmart, and it went really well,” Montgomery said. “We’re excited to do it again outside Walmart.”

She’s working with NMU’s Mike Rutledge, staff adviser for Student Veterans of America and director of Veteran Student Services.

These are items collected at a recent drive for Care Packages for Soldiers Overseas. These are items collected at a recent drive for Care Packages for Soldiers Overseas. A drive is set for Saturday at Walmart in Marquette Township. (Photo courtesy of Heather Montgomery)

Operation Care Package, Rutledge said, has drop-off points throughout the state, with Newberry the only spot in the Upper Peninsula. The organization sends out the packages, usually to Michigan National Guard or Reserve Units that are deployed, dependent on how many are deployed.

Whatever the number, the packages will get to a unit somewhere, said Rutledge, who said they are much appreciated since they’re beyond MREs — Meals Ready to Eat.

“Anytime you get something that’s not an MRE or mess hall, it’s pretty nice

nice,” Rutledge said.

Items on the lists that will be handed to Walmart customers are: food – energy/protein/granola/cereal bars, Chex/trail mix, beef jerky/Slim Jims, pudding/Jell-O cups, sunflower seeds, microwave popcorn and Pop Tarts; drinks – Kool-Aid, Gatorade, Powerade mixes; foods with which to add water — ramen noodles, instant oatmeal and hot chocolate/instant coffee/tea; and flavor enhancement — powdered creamer, seasonings, hot sauce, ketchup and mustard.

Also needed are: cleaning items — shampoo/conditioner, body/facial wash, shaving cream/aftershave, toothbrushes/toothpaste, deodorant, Q-tips/cotton balls and loofahs/wash clothes; toiletries — hand sanitizer, lip balm, lotion, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, combs/brushes and bobby pins/hair ties; first aid — antacids, cough drops, Band-Aids, bandage wraps and Vicks Vapor Rub; and activity items – books, puzzle-style books, playing cards/card games, hacky sacks and Frisbees.

To send a money donation, contact Montgomery at 269-923-9414 or hmontgom@nmu.edu.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.