AYDEN, N.C. (WNCT) - As eastern North Carolina prepares to honor those who died serving the country on Memorial Day, an Ayden-based non-profit is working to support those currently serving, one care package at a time.
NC Packs 4 Patriots collects donations from businesses, churches and individuals from across eastern North Carolina. Then, volunteers pack those donations to send to troops across the world.
"Can you imagine being deployed and mail call happening, and your name not being called?" said Barbara Whitehead, the organization’s director.
"My son joined the Army,” said Whitehead. “And in our family, you get the kid, you get the whole family. And I became an Army mom."
Letters to her son's friends quickly turned into care packages. Then in 2004, after helping to send packages to troops for the holidays, Whitehead had an idea. Why not do it year-round?
"We thought it'd be just a few months and everything would be over,” she said. “And here it is, 2018, and we're still booming. We're actually one of the largest care package organizations in the country."
Boy Scout Caleb Anderson is working hard to earn his eagle rank by volunteering with Packs 4 Patriots.
"I've been collecting stuff basically all year, but specifically within the last month,” said Anderson. “Like hotel-size toiletries for soldiers to bring overseas. Because they have to walk like two miles to get to a shower unit. And they can't carry the giant things with them."
But it's not just necessities going into the care packages. Oftentimes, it's things we take for granted.
"How many times on the way home from work do you say, ‘I want a candy bar?’” said Whitehead. “And you stop at the local convenience store, pick up a candy bar. Pick up your favorite soft drink. You can't do that when you're in a military convoy. We've had troops that have said, ‘Do you know what it's like to get a Snickers bar when you've not had a Snickers in ten months?’"
Their packing has a purpose, and each box contains something special.
"The most important part of the care package are the cards and letters from home,” Whitehead said. “Getting the mail and just letting them know there's a connection and that people haven't forgotten them."
"The little cookie cutter cards are great,” said Anderson. “But it makes it super special when someone takes the time to add a little note to them."
Everything Packs 4 Patriots sends is donated, and donations go toward paying for the postage as well.
Whitehead said people across eastern Carolina step up to help.
"Whether you donate $25 or $250, know that your donation is going to be appreciated,” she said.