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Nearly 24,000 packages sent to troops so far
A previous troop packing event at the Manteca Transit Center.

It’s not much bigger than a proverbial bread box.

To some the content can seem pretty mundane. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, other personal hygiene items, seasonings, condiments, squirt guns, playing cards, dice, high protein snacks, candy, jump, personal grooming items, white or black socks, water balloons and such.

But it means the world when it is opened halfway across the world in Afghanistan and in other troubled spots by a soldier who is far away from the comforts of home, family, and friends and is literally in harm’s way every day. The addition of handwritten thank you notes from complete strangers shows they are not forgotten and that the sacrifices they are making for their country are appreciated.

It is what keeps the small army of volunteers and an even larger army of donors involved in the Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support program first launched in 2008 going.

“A lot of people are under the misconception the military provides personal hygiene items and such,”  Charles Palmer, the father of the fallen Marine the troop support effort is named for, said. “The soldiers have to pay for such (items) themselves.”

And as his wife Teri Palmer pointed out, given what soldiers make and that many have families they leave behind stateside to support while they are in combat zones they can qualify for food stamps, the little things packed tightly by volunteers in those boxes are a valuable and appreciated gift.

Another misconception is that the Postal Service  doesn’t charge to send care packages to troops. They have a $32,000 postage bill so far this year they’ve paid that says otherwise. Overseas packages cost them $17.95 apiece to send.

The Palmers said donations of items to put in the boxes have dropped off in recent months despite soldiers still serving in combat zones and other dangerous outposts.

Items needed are listed at Monetary donations to help with shipping can be made on the website via PayPal. Donations of items and funds can also be dropped off at:

uFreedom Smog, 195 S. Union Road, Manteca, behind the McDonald’s, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

uFreedom Smog, 2660 Patterson Road, Riverbank, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

uFreedom Smog, 830 Kansas Avenue C1, Modesto, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

uSalonCentric, 3214 W. Grantline Road, Tracy, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

uManteca Senior Center, 295 Cherry Lane, Manteca, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The next troop packing event is this Friday at Joshua Cowell School in observance of Patriot’s Day. It was the first school to assist with the effort. Others have joined since.

It started when students were challenged to come up with projects to have an impact in the community. Fifth grader Genevieve Flores came up to then Principal Bonnie Bennett — who was one of Charles Palmer II’s Manteca High teachers — and said she wanted to help the troops.

Bennett immediately thought of getting the student body involved with the troop packing effort.

The Palmers have a treasure trove of memories from every troop packing event over the years. At Cowell school what sticks out was a soldier who received a handwritten note by a young girl student. The soldier was so moved by the note the he took time during his stateside rotation to make a surprise visit during a subsequent troop packing event conducted during a school assembly and presented the girl with a Teddy Bear as a token of his appreciation.

 Among the upcoming troop packing event is one set for Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Manteca Transit Center. The City of Manteca as well as Doctors Hospital is involved. The Palmers are hoping to get non-profits and other groups to help as well.

It is the packing event that covers the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. They hope to have at least 350 boxes that they can ship. Typically an event will generate more than 100 boxes.

For more  information, contact Teri Palmer at (209) 627-5146 or Chuck Palmer at (209) 627-5147. You can also email or go to

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email