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Care packages send "Touch of Home" to troops

Monthly packing parties provide necessities, treats
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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For troops serving overseas, hard candy and powdered drink mix can be the perfect present.

Each month, volunteers gather in Auburn to package those items and many more into care packages for the armed forces. Many members are parents of deployed servicemen and women who gather each month to assemble care packages and offer support to one another.

Barbara Fralick’s son, Charlie, a Placer High School graduate, is serving in the Army in Afghanistan. At the June packing night, Fralick personally packed Charlie’s box, complete with a letter and copy of the Auburn Journal so he could see the news from home.

“I knew that I would want to get connected with some organization once he went over there,” Fralick said. “It just amazes me that they do all this for kids they don’t even know.”

A Touch of Home was formed after Operation: MOM pulled out of Placer County. It is made up of many of the same volunteers, who have the same mission of raising money and collecting donations of items needed for troops.

The Placer County Council of the Navy League took A Touch of Home under its umbrella; the group is now a League committee. Organizers emphasize that A Touch of Home serves all military branches and has no agenda other than to help.

“This is not a pro-war group,” said volunteer Tom Jones, of Auburn. “This is not a rifle-waving group. This is a group that says we have made a commitment as a nation and we have to do the human things and keep these kids in touch.”

Navy League Vice President Mike Holmes said A Touch of Home fits in well with the league’s activities, and helps broaden the league’s outlook beyond maritime organizations.wo

“Obviously many of the people who they’re sending these packages to are not members of the sea services, but nevertheless they’re brothers and sisters in uniform,” Holmes said.

Items sent to troops include cotton swabs, water flavors, instant coffee, sunblock, shampoo and conditioner, canned fruit, beef jerky, toothbrushes and toothpaste, lip balm, floss and baby wipes. Volunteers also take requests from personnel.

“Some of these areas are very, very primitive,” said volunteer Pat Thomas. “One of the weird requests we got last year was they wanted the little things you put in cars to make them smell better. They wanted to put it in their tents to make them smell better.”

Donations of money are also appreciated to buy supplies and to offset the cost of shipping the boxes, which weigh 7-9 pounds and cost $11.35 each. 

Colfax resident Laurie Rapolla joined A Touch of Home because her son, Justin Daniel, is serving in the Army in Afghanistan.

“All the wonderful ladies here who have had sons in the service know what it’s like … it’s a wonderful support group,” Rapolla said. “The camaraderie is just wonderful.”

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissik@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.

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Want to help?

A Touch of Home packing nights are held at 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month upstairs at Nella Oil, 2349 Rickenbacker Way, Auburn. Nella Oil donates its building to the cause.

For more information about A Touch of Home, including how to donate and to provide names of servicemen and women who would like to receive care packages, email pcnl.touchofhome@gmail.com, call (530) 888-0784 or follow the group on Facebook.

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Needed items

A shipping box from A Touch of Home contains the following items:

One newspaper

One letter

One reeturn envelope with A Touch of Home's information

1-gallon package of toiletries (two toothbrushes, two small toothpastes, floss, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, cotton swabs, lip balm, razors, hand sanitizer, bath gel, deodorant, wipes, tissue, sunblock)

One book

One puzzle book (if possible)

Jerky

Canned fruit

Tuna

Top Ramen

Nuts

Gum

Packaged fruit

Snack bars

Water flavors

Tea

Coffee

One pair of socks (black for Marines)

Candy

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More ways to give

Sending care packages to troops is a time-honored service carried out by many groups, including Auburn Elks Lodge 1691. Lodge Manager Jim Chapman said people who have family or friends serving overseas are welcome to email auburnelks@gmail.com to have them added to the mailing list. The club has been sending packages overseas for about six months now, and accepts donations of items and money for supplies and postage.

The lodge heard back from the USO in Bagram, Afghanistan, recently, when Duty Manager Jean Aristide thanked them for their donations.

“All of us here in Bagram cannot tell you how much it is appreciated and necessary from these women to get this morale boost from home,” she said.