TOWNSEND -- "They could be kids, they could be fathers. They're making sacrifices big-time," said Jessica Fellows.
Fellows knows some of the soldiers who have gone to serve overseas. When she worked on the Lowell ambulance, they were like little brothers to her.
Now, working as a Townsend dispatcher and a member of the Townsend moms' network on Facebook, she adopted a soldier. She sends cards and letters to her soldier regularly.
When she heard about Project Frontlines, which involves sending a one-time care package to a unit, she decided to get local families thinking about these soldiers. Fellows put the word out on the moms' network.
"I said, you know what? They could really use it," she said. "It's great for them to open something up."
"I got overwhelming support from all the moms," she said. About 10 families, moms, dads and kids, signed up.
They picked a couple of days to meet and collected everything from baby wipes to beef jerky. Sometimes the unit has a wish list and the website has informational tips on what to include, Fellows said.
The boxes are also about reaching out to the soldiers. "We had the kids do some great little drawings and coloring," she said. "Some of their letters were really great."
The group put together a birthday box with candles and prewrapped cake. "Odds are, someone had a birthday in the last few days," Fellows said.
A fresh cake might have been better, but might not survive the journey.
Contributing to others is a regular part of the Fellows' lives. Jessica and her husband, Eric, involve their children, Morgan, 10, and Pierce, 8, in a charitable or helping activity every month. "We know if you teach your kids young what it's like to share, they do get it," she said.
Assembling the care packages was fun for the children involved, too. "Even if it's shopping for someone else, they enjoy that," she said.
"We do it for each other, now we're extending it to others," Fellows said.
Some of the soldiers who sign up to be part of the program might not have family support. "When they sign up for this, they really need it," she said.
Every week, Fellows sends a real letter, with a stamp, to her soldier. She does not always hear back, sometimes things get too busy. But that does not discourage her.
"I remember as a kid it was a great thing to get a letter from my great-aunt," Fellows said.
She encouraged the other moms in the one-time project to send emails, but warned them that they might not hear back.
Working on the care packages inspired other families to step up on a regular basis. Two of the families decided to go full-boat and adopt their own soldier, Fellows said.
The Townsend group packed 11 boxes for their soldiers at the beginning of July.
"The cool thing about this is at some point you're going to be providing a lot of smiles," Fellows said.
For more information about Project Frontlines or Adopt a U.S. Soldier, visit www.adoptaussoldier.org.
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