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Troop packing event collects items and hand-written letters
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Teri Palmer has put together enough care packages to know that the best gift an American soldier can receive isn’t soap, soup or a magazine, but a hand-written note.

It’s become a lost art in a digital age, but every few months a band of patriotic volunteers encourage the community to put pen to paper, sharing their thoughts and well-wishes with those deployed overseas.

“We’re losing that in today’s society. We don’t sit down and write notes anymore. So when someone does, or a class draws pictures, those are the things that mean the most to them,” said Palmer, who, along with her husband Chuck, formed the Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troops Support Program in honor of their slain son. 

“(The soldiers) hang them on their walls or read them to the others.”

The chance to once again communicate with our troops draws near. 

The Memorial Troops Support Program will host its Hot August Troop Pack on Sunday, Aug. 3, at The Place of Refuge in Manteca. The event begins at 2 p.m. 

In June, volunteers put together 98 care packages for troops stationed overseas. Packages include items of necessity, such as hygiene products and nonperishable foods, and small items of luxury, such as magazines and games.

The cherry on top: A hand-written note or drawing.

“We have guys and gals over in Afghanistan and because they’re starting to shut down bases, what they can get in their BXs is limited,” Palmer said. “They don’t have what we have here. They don’t have choice. They go buy the minimum.

“When they get one of our packages they feel like it is Christmas in June or August.”

The Palmers aren’t alone in this endeavor.

The community has rallied around the parents of Marine Cpl. Charles Palmer II, a Manteca native who was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom on May 5, 2007.

Upwards of 50 volunteers staffed June’s packing party.

“My husband and I couldn’t do this on our own. We’d have no way to provide for all these troops. The people and businesses donate items,” Palmer said.

“I have found that we have very caring, loving community that is very patriotic and cares about our military and our country. There have been many times when I thought ‘Are we supposed to be doing this?’ But then people show up and they tell us that they’re thankful for what we do.”

What do the Palmers do with all that praise?

They pay it forward.

Each packing party features a separate area for guests and volunteers to write a note to a soldier. Sometimes to someone they know. Sometimes to someone they don’t.

“If there is anyone here in the Manteca area that has someone in the service that wants some extra cheer sent to them, we make sure they get it,” Palmer said.

The Place of Refuge is located at 486 Button Avenue.

Those that can’t make the packing event can drop items off at The Place of Refuge or Smog Tech I, 195 S. Union Road in Manteca. A barrel will be placed in the foyer at The Place of Refuge on Sunday, June 20.

If you’d like to help cover the cost of shipping the packages, checks may be made out to American Legion Post 249 with “MTSP” noted in the memo area. Checks can be mailed to American Legion Post 249 at P.O. Box 249, Manteca, Ca. 95336 or Cpl. Palmer MTSP, 617 Park Avenue, Manteca, Ca. 95337.

Each packages costs $15.45 to ship.