PARIS — Two local veterans groups and Norway’s Army National Guard Armory are asking the community to help bring Christmas to active service men and women around the globe. They are collecting donations to create care packages to help brighten the holidays for those who are away from home.

“This is a month-long effort,” said Sarah Glynn, Navy veteran and president of Paris’ American Legion Post 86. “We are accepting donated items throughout November, and will cap the donation drive off with the Oxford Hills Christmas Parade on Nov. 30.”

Members of South Paris’ American Legion and VFW are building a special float for the parade, dedicated to the soldier separated from his family during the holidays. The float will be decorated with blown-up images of local military members as a way to include them in their hometowns’ festivities, Glynn said. The scene will depict a remote military campsite as it might be decorated for the holidays.

Sgt. Jared Jacobs or the USMC. The Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School graduate will spend the holidays this year serving away from home. Submitted photo

“We will have a scrawny little Christmas tree as its center,” Glynn said. “With cots and camouflage netting, soldiers gathered around reading letters from home, and with Christmas songs playing.”

An Army National Guard Humvee will pull the float and be accompanied by volunteer-driven ATVs hauling carts to collect donations from parade spectators.

The annual parade is presented by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce and is one of the largest holiday parades in Maine.

“For donations, we want everyday staples and supplies—items always at our fingertips at home,” said Glynn. “We are asking the community for simple things like toiletries and personal care items. Two-ply toilet paper, believe it or not, is high on the wish list for people serving in Afghanistan. They can’t get it. They also ask for sun screen, lip balm, shampoo and personal care items.

“Non-perishable food items are also in demand. Ramen® noodles, seasonings, canned tuna and seafood, peanut butter, beverages like spring water and sports drinks, even Spam® … trail mixes, chewing gum, candies (that won’t melt on the way). Also foods that offer a taste of home, like Humpty Dumpty® potato chips or Maine maple treats.”

Glynn said easily shipped entertainment items will round out the care packages. Writing supplies, playing cards and board games, popular books, Frisbees®/balls can help relieve boredom.

“And holiday decorations!” Glynn said. “Sparkly or homemade, garlands, ornaments, even little artificial Charlie Brown trees will help brighten the holidays for service men and women far from home.”

A more complete list of care package ideas can be found online at the Oxford Hills Veterans Facebook page.

In addition, the groups appreciate donations of materials, like clear storage bags to make portions, shipping supplies, and financial contributions to cover postage expenses.

Throughout the month of November, anyone wishing to participate can drop off donations at Glynn’s Oxford Hills Law offices at 197 Park Street, in Paris. Checks to help defray expenses should be made out to American Legion Post 86. Financial contributions are tax-deductible; Glynn says the law firm will provide receipts for those who make cash donations.

This year marks the first holiday drive focused on military serving away from home and Glynn hopes to make it an annual event.

“We want to broaden veteran support for our active military,” Glynn said. “The Legion has decided to shift our programs to more actively include those members who are not with us while they serve.”

The Legion will continue to participate in local projects and youth programs like little league sponsorship and oversight of veteran graves in area cemeteries. But it is realigning its outreach to include its expanded vision.

“Traditionally the Legion awards $1,200 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors,” said Glynn. “But we are adjusting it to recognize young men and women who choose service as well. So, when a local recruit joins the military, we will present him or her with a certificate and pin. Upon graduation from boot camp, we ask for them to let us know so we can add their name to a service plaque at the high school.”

Those boot camp grads will get immediate appreciation from their community, and Glynn hopes they will benefit from holiday care packages in the future.

SPC Jackson Littlefield of the Army National Guard. The graduate of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School will spend the holidays this year serving away from home. Submitted photo

“Being in the military and serving away from home, it’s different for each and every person,” Glynn said. “Despite being surrounded by shipmates, soldiers and comrades, everyone separated from their family misses them.”

Glynn encourages any local families with members actively deployed to contact Vera Angell at Oxford Hills Law Firm if they would like to have a care package shipped out, or if they have an image of their loved one to include with the parade float. She can be reached at 743-7753.

The Legion is also calling for volunteers to help with boxing up and shipping care packages.

“Immediately after the parade, we are getting to work to box up our care packages and ship everything out,” said Glynn. “We will start shipping on Dec. 2, and continue every day that week.”

 


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