When Army Reservist Lisa Graves got a care package from Lewiston recently she had only one thought – whoopie!

That’s because the mental health specialist who’s stationed in Bagram, Afghanistan, was the happy recipient of two cases of Sam’s whoopie pies. Forty-eight of the cream-filled chocolate cake delicacies were packed in dry ice and shipped halfway around the world to her unit’s desert location.

“When we got them, everyone had to eat one right then,” said Graves. “It didn’t matter that it was close to lunchtime. I know I would rather have a whoopie pie than lunch any day.”

Graves got the edible gift through a happy sequence of events. Her mom, Pauline Brown, graduated from Lewiston High School 50 years ago, then Pauline Moulton. She married a military man, and the couple and their young family lived in Lewiston for several years before moving south in 1968.

But it was long enough for her family to develop a love of local cuisine. For Brown, it was Sam’s Italians. For one daughter, it was lobster salad. Another loved Needhams from Mary’s Candy Shop. And for Lisa, it was whoopie pies.

So when Brown attended her 50th class reunion in August, she picked up everyone’s favorites.

Stocking up

“I almost have to bring a cooler with me when I visit Maine,” said Brown, who now lives in Virginia Beach.

For Lisa, she bought eight of Sam’s whoopie pies and mailed them off to her desert location. Temperatures in Bagram easily exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and Graves had told her mom the average soldier loses 26 pounds while stationed there.

“They’re in a dreadful situation over there,” said Brown. “I thought I’d try to make it a little more bearable.”

Graves was delighted when she got her mom’s shipment, but struggled with whether to share them.

“I didn’t share them willingly,” said Graves, “but I wanted my soldiers to experience a genuine whoopie pie from my hometown of Lewiston, Maine. Most people have never heard of them.”

The soldiers loved the whoopie pies – so much so that Graves thought she should contact Sam’s via the Web and order more. She was only able to find a Web site for Sam’s catering that, unbeknownst to her, had been launched only a couple of weeks before.

E-mail for takeout

“She was our first e-mail,” said Mike Marchus, general manager for Sam’s, “and it’s from Afghanistan requesting whoopie pies. I expected a request for information about catering a wedding or something.”

Marchus was touched by Graves’ story about the whoopie pies. He decided to send them a couple of cases for free.

“We’re big softies,” he said, adding that he was pleased at the opportunity to show support for U.S. troops in the Mideast.

The pies were packed in two insulated boxes surrounded by dry ice and sent via the U.S. Postal Service. It took nine days for them to reach their destination, but the reaction was much quicker.

“All of us in the unit were ecstatic to receive them,” wrote Graves in an e-mail to Marchus. “We could not wait to tear into them, and they are so fresh. You really went out of your way for us and it means more than you can ever imagine. Being over here in this environment is rough, but it is little things like having whoopie pies that make the world of difference to us. :o)”

The gesture touched Brown as well.

“It was very patriotic of them to send the stuff,” she said. “That Sam’s was willing to be so helpful is a comforting thought.”

Graves e-mailed a photo to Marchus, showing her unit enjoying the whoopie pies. He said it was the best thank-you she could have sent.

“Seeing that makeshift hospital made out of sandbags and the soldiers holding Sam’s whoopie pies … it was very powerful.”

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