story & photo
by Maren Schober
It all started one night a few weeks ago at the VFW,” Peggy Roberts tells me. “First a five dollar bill is tossed at me and then another five dollars was handed to me. From then, on the donations come flooding in until $185.00 is collected from our patrons.”
“It really starts with Eric Kleeman, who walks up to me holding the empty collection box for the men and women serving in Afghanistan. ‘Hey,’ says Eric. ‘This box is empty. We ought to do something to fill it.’ Then Ed Nichols tosses me the first five dollar bill. Next thing I know, more bills are handed to me. That was the start.”
The organization SERVE stations collection boxes in several sites in the area for our troops overseas. At the Mystic VFW one of the boxes is pink.
“That’s important,” Peggy tells me. “Not too many people remember the women soldiers. They are so grateful for the feminine articles we send and they write letters to thank us.”
Bill Kitchens is the Commander of the Mystic VFW Post #3263 where $500.00 was collected by the Men’s Auxiliary and another $500.00 from the members of the VFW. Altogether $1185.00 was donated by the VFW. It was now time to go shopping, and shopping they did!
“Donna Foley and her daughter, Melissa, come with me, along with Terry Gillis and Kathe Lewis, all from the VFW,” Peggy explains. “We march into Ocean State Job Lot and spend hours buying the essential hygiene items for both men and women soldiers. Into the carts go toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand creams, hand lotions, personal feminine items, shavers, deodorants, shaving cream, powders, Chapstick, shampoo, hair conditioners, razors, soap; everything you can think of. We even buy baby wipes.”
“My son, Chet, just got back form overseas,” says Terry. “He says to me, ‘Mom, don’t forget the baby wipes. They really need them over there where it is so hot and dry. There is so little water. The baby wipes help to keep them wet.’”
Mike Foley, president, Mystic VFW Post #3263 Men’s Auxiliary, and a group of other members rounded up all the donated items and took them over to the UPS Store in Westerly where Tony Montalbano, vice president, SERVE, and his helpers package, wrap and ship the products to Afghanistan. It is a big work project. It could never be done alone. It takes lots of help.
Bill Grunow is one of the two directors for SERVE. He tells me the details. “We have collection boxes at Mystic VFW, UPS Store Westerly, McQuade’s Hardware, McQuade’s Market in Mystic, Dime Bank, Eagle’s Nest, Ed Jones Investment and the Cooked Goose; all in Westerly. The personal hygiene products are best bought in the small traveling sizes. The soldiers also really need some unrefrigerated small food items such as ring top cans, such as: Chef Boyardee, powdered Kool Aid, Slim Jims, beef jerky and small cracker packages.”
“For money donations we have coin boxes stationed at UPS Store in Westerly, Cooked Goose, Westerly, Bogues Alley, Pawcatuck, Children’s Market, Pawcatuck, Grandpa Tom’s Deli, Pawcatuck, and Legends in Hope Valley.”
For information about how to donate and about SERVE planning meetings, call Tony at 401.322.5060. For information about upcoming baked goods collection for our troops call VFW Mystic 860.536.3682. Ask for Peggy.