While members of the military are fighting hard overseas, their loved ones are at home, worried for their safety—and doing the best they can to support them from across the world.
LeAnn Boudwine, from Hartford, Wisconsin, knows the feeling well: she has two sons who have served in the military.
But ten years ago, when her youngest son was deployed to the Middle East, she discovered she could help him out in a major way—all with a simple package of supplies.
It’s common for military families to send their deployed loved ones care packages, boxes of extra food and supplies shipped to their base. But Boudwine never realized how essential they could be.
“When my second son went overseas he was not on a base, he was in the field,” she told CBS58. “And he literally told me you take what’s in your back pockets sometimes for days.”
Knowing she was making a difference, she started sending more boxes, with things like cans of soup and shampoo.
But Boudwine was upset to learn from her son that many soldiers weren’t so lucky, and never received care packages from home.
“A lot of soldiers are supporting their families at home and their families are not able to do this,” Boudwine told TMJ4.
Her heart went out to them and wanted to do more—to give back not just to her soldiers, but to all the men and women serving overseas.
So she decided to start sending care packages to everyone.
Boudwine now runs a volunteer organization called Support The Troops – Hartford WI. The group takes donations from the community and creates and ships care packages to military bases.
The group had humble beginnings a decade ago, as Boudwine was running it from her home.
“It started in my living room, then my kitchen, dining room, family room,” Boudwine told CBS. “I started asking family and friends when [they] went grocery shopping [to] pick up extra soup, shampoo.”
She never imagined what the project would grow into.
Ten years later, Support the Troops has shipped 10,000 care packages.
The team has been able to get a whopping amount of shipments overseas. The organization has grown out of Boudwine’s basement, and now includes a dedicated network of volunteers—many of whom are veterans themselves.
Veteran Chris Bergstresser told TMJ4 he brings his young sons to volunteer with the group because he wants them “to understand where their freedom is coming from,” and “to understand that we need to support them because they are over there fighting for us.”
And other volunteers are people who have seen the organization in action: military families whose loved ones received a care package from Support the Troops.
A woman named Carrie Stelzer donated a space to the charity drive after her nephew received a shipment—and knew how much it meant to him:
“He thinks it’s really neat that he gets a part of home.”
And of course, the soldiers overseas always appreciate Boudwine’s efforts to help them out.
“I’ve received calls from people at four in the morning not realizing there’s a time difference to say “Hey are you the lady that sent me a care package?'” she told CBS.
Since that call with her son a decade ago, Boudwine has sent more packages than she ever imagined. But even as she’s crossing the 10,000 package milestone, she has no plans of slowing down:
“I’ll do it for as long as I can,” she told TMJ4.