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Giving thanks for special service

Posted: November 26, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: November 26, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Volunteer Diana Flittner, right, of Santa Clarita, bags candy with other volunteers in Valencia.

 

This Thanksgiving season, deployed troops received care packages assembled by the Hands and Hearts group of Christ Lutheran Church in Valencia.

The group, led by Karolle Blackson, has put together care packages for deployed military for more than seven years.
Hands and Hearts, now a full-fledged monthly commitment with volunteers from throughout the community, started in 2004 with Blackson’s small urge to support one soldier and grew into a big effort to do more for the men and women who our country.

The need

Blackson, a longtime member of Christ Lutheran, was referred to anysoldier.com by a friend. The website, started by a soldier who saw his fellow troops needed support, allows soldiers to sign up and receive care packages and pen pals.

She wanted to help and quickly put together one package.

“It wasn’t enough,” Blackson said. “There was so much need.”

After seeing just how much need there was, she knew she had to do more. She began asking for donations; any support that she could find, she took.

“I discovered that in this community there is a tremendous desire to support the military,” Blackson said. “They just didn’t know how.”

In 2005 she approached Hands and Hearts, a church group that was dedicated to helping with church projects such as stuffing envelopes, and asked if they would be willing to take on the task of collecting and assembling care packages with her.

So much more

The primary goal of Hands and Hearts became supporting members of the military in harm’s way. Packages have been sent to soldiers in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.

Each package is put together by one person and contains a personalized letter to the soldier. Packages consist of canned goods, beanies, beef jerky, magazines, toiletries and movies. Sent with each package is artwork from children and a laminated prayer card.

Each soldier is assigned a prayer partner, and that partner writes a personalized prayer to the soldier and signs it.

“It is very powerful,” she said. “That soldier understands that the person whose name is at the bottom of the card will be praying for them every day.”

‘We can be America’

Seven years later, Hands and Hearts is still packing for the troops. The group has many volunteers from both the church and the community.

Diana Flittner has been packing with Hands and Hearts for more than six years.

“I love doing the packages,” she said. “They are our heroes, and they deserve all the love and attention we can give them.”

Barbara Anderson, a member from the beginning, shared her motivation for helping.

“I know they need to be reminded that we are remembering them and thinking of them,” she said.

This month the packers put together two boxes for each soldier for a total of more than 100 packages. One contained the typical care package items and the other contained Christmas decorations.

All the volunteers spoke of the responses they have received over the years. Troops have sent thank-you letters for the packages and prayer cards, raved about the pictures from the children or shown up at the church to tell volunteers how much the support meant to them.

“We can give them something their family can’t,” Blackson said. “We can be America to them. We can say we support you; you don’t need to know who we are and there are no strings attached. This is a thank you.”

Lend a hand
To donate to Hands and Hearts, contact the church office at (661) 259-0200 or to volunteer contact Karolle at hands_n_hearts@yahoo.com.

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