Care packages brighten day for Broncos on active duty
Nov. 16, 2005
KALAMAZOO--The floor in front of Dori LaChance's desk in the Registrar's Office at Western Michigan University is neatly lined with snack foods, toothpaste, puzzles and dozens of other items commonly found on convenience store shelves. But the commodities aren't for sale. They're destined for WMU community members who have been deployed to the Middle East and hurricane-ravaged U.S. Gulf Coast.
LaChance began collecting items such as these in 2002. As WMU's Veterans Administration clerk, she was familiar with the many students, faculty and staff who were being called up for active duty.
"It was an emotional thing, because I knew them," she says. "The people over there fighting in the war aren't somebody else. They're us. They're people we see every day."
LaChance says about 30 people have been sent packages since the project began, and now she and her growing cadre of campus volunteers are stocking up for a new round of care package shipments for Christmas.
News of the effort has spread by word of mouth, and three months ago, the Registrar's Office began picking up the shipping costs. LaChance still boxes up the packages, which have to go through customs, and takes care of the necessary paperwork.
She also maintains an e-mail list of employees from across campus who want to contribute, and when stocks are running low, puts out a call for donations. In addition, she welcomes the submission of addresses of WMU-affiliated service members, particularly alumni, as she isn't always aware of who has been called up.
"Anyone can donate, and we'll accept just about anything," she adds. "We try to include a mix of things in each box. Cash is ok, too. We can use it for shipping and to buy fill-in items."
LaChance says the packages are opened in a central area, with generic items shared among everyone in the addressee's unit, and she rarely knows the status of the units--some move frequently and can only keep what they can carry.
So, she recommends that people donate items that are light-weight and aren't too big or expensive, as they may have to be left behind should the unit move. Staples she likes to have on hand include personal hygiene items, nonperishable foods, and games and other entertainment items. Toys that can be given out to Iraqi children are also big winners, as is WMU memorabilia.
"It's just an action from our hearts and I wouldn't give it up for the world," LaChance says. "We're always going to have people over there. This is our way of giving the University community a chance to do something if they want to. We're not supporting the war. We're supporting the people and their families, and I know they really appreciate it."
To submit addresses of those serving in the military, make
a care package donation or be added to the contributors' e-mail
list, contact LaChance at firstname.lastname@example.org