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Complete package: Rallying in support of troops
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Four rows of tables with all kinds of needed items for troops overseas were manned by a cadre of volunteers who carefully packed those boxes with everything from snacks to toiletries, magazines and memories of home. Letters of good were included from the hospital the Ladies of the Ripon VFW were placed in each box. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

It was a grassroots community effort Friday afternoon at Doctors Hospital where more than 50 volunteers gathered to pack over 100 gift boxes for American troops serving abroad and donated some $900 toward the shipping costs of nearly $2,000.

Doctors parent Tenet Corporation donated $250 toward the shipment costs.

The parents of the late Marine Corporal Charles O. Palmer II were the organizers of the Memorial Support Program in their son’s name with the support of Manteca’s American Legion and Ripon’s VFW. 

“What an amazing event in troop packaging,” Palmer said.  “On Patriots Day there will be a similar event at Joshua Cowell School where children will bring their things to be boxed,” he said.  Doctors CEO Nicholas Tejeda said another packaging event will be sponsored in December with some 500 boxes to be sent to the troops.

Working at four long tables in the conference room at the hospital, the volunteers tightly packed gum, candy, writing paper, pens and pocket sized tablets.  They added dental hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.  Feminine hygiene items were packed for the women assigned to active duty.

Personal hygiene items such as soap shampoo, lotion and hand sanitizer went into the boxes along with high protein snacks including jerky, energy bars and nuts were included.  Individual servings of packaged fruits, meats, pastas, puddings, cereals were added.

Books, magazines, CDs and DVDs along with games, toys, cards, squirt guns, dice and water balloons, nail clippers, lip balm, unscented wipes, combs brushes and disposal razors were placed next to wash cloths, socks, seasonings, condiments, sugar, salt and pepper on top of powdered creamers, ketchup, mustard and mayo packets.

Small battery operated fans, hand warmers and batters were popular additions.

A number of volunteers entered through the front lobby of the hospital before the packaging began in the conference center near the corner of Cottage Avenue and North Street carrying their own donations of snacks and food stuffs.

Donna Jamison’s arms were loaded down with Krispy Treats and Cheez-Its packages. She was part of a string of volunteers who asked for directions down the hallway.

In the conference center a video was played out on a large screen showing a Fourth Brigade Chaplain, Major Don Williamson, strumming a guitar and singing a ballad he had written about his military experience in Iraq telling of some of his experiences and those of his troops, things that he and other soldiers were feeling in their hearts while they were deployed away from home.

The major’s singing brought the packaging to a halt as everyone in the room stared at the TV screen as tears began to flow in response. 

Palmer noted that the video went on YouTube some eight weeks ago when with a notation, “We’re still here,” and showing a need to keep the packages coming from the people at home.

A retired Marine Sergeant Gene Redding also spoke to the group of packers in person of his experiences with his troops so far away from home.  He said the boxes coming from home have literally dried up any more.  Receiving boxes from families in their home communities are like receiving Christmas presents whenever they come in the mail call – sending a message that they are not forgotten. 

Director of nurses at Doctors, Pidge Gooch, was busy working with the volunteers wearing a volunteer’s red shirt that had a small gold inscription, “Marine Mom.”  Asked about her status,  she noted that she and her husband Jim currently have a son in the Corps – now in San Diego and about to return to Japan, he has been a Marine for three years.  Her husband is a veteran of the Marines.

“In those boxes are things that will occupy them and remind them of the USA and lots of love in the boxes too,” she insisted. 

All of the boxes were packed in a little more than an hour before they were carried outside and loaded into trucks to be stored until they can be mailed. 

Two letters were enclosed in the boxes – one from Doctors Hospital chief nursing officer Pidge Gooch and the other from the VFW Ladies Auxiliary in Ripon. 

The heart of the Gooch letter was just that, it read:

“I hope you find something in the contents of this box that makes your day a little brighter, satisfies ad craving, gives you a smile, or serves a need.  Please know that it was packed with love just for YOU!  This box was also made possible by the Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Support Program, the American legion Post 249 (in Manteca CA), and a group of committed private citizens that join us today in this endeavor.  We know the real heroes wear combat boots and today and every day we salute you and your families for your sacrifices.”

Gooch added, “Many of our team members are veterans or have children and spouses who are active duty right now – every branch of the service is represented in our ranks.”

Any monetary donations may be made at the McFall/Grisham American Legion Post in the 200 block of East Yosemite – monies that will be turned over to the project leaders.  Donating through the Legion will provide a tax deduction for the donor. 

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