Brookfield company sends holiday cheer to troops abroad
Volunteers want soldiers to know they are appreciated
Tucked in with a stocking, a pack of tissues, playing cards and a Santa hat in one of more than a hundred boxes being prepared for troops abroad, a card read, "Hoping it won't be long before you're home trimming your own tree."
Dozens of volunteers from Waukesha County and beyond tackled piles of snacks, toiletries, games and stuffed animals at Hunzinger Construction Company in Brookfield on Friday, sorting them into holiday packages to send to loved ones overseas.
"My son just got back from Afghanistan," Sue Parrish, who came from Delafield to volunteer, said. "They sent packages to him while he was there and it meant a lot. Christmas is a tough time for those guys."
Hunzinger Construction has been sending boxes to troops since 2006, when an employee there had a brother abroad and the owner of the company, John Hunzinger, started collecting items to send for others who had family and friends overseas.
Packages sent quarterly
Since then, the Troop Care Package Program has grown into a year-round collection with four shipments each year for Easter, the Fourth of July, Halloween and Christmas.
"We just want to be able to say thanks and help someone out," John Hunzinger's daughter, Sarah Sandkuhler, said.
Last year, Sandkuhler said the company shipped 6,000 pounds of goods for Christmas, in 250 packages, with the help of regular donors. She said just about all 50 of the company's employees volunteer with the drive and the company covers the cost of shipping the packages — about $50 per box. Donations and volunteers also come from more than a dozen other local organizations, including Brookfield Elementary, St. Mary's of Elm Grove and St. John Vianney Parish of Brookfield.
Brookfield Academy Cub Scout Pack 183 has also been involved with the drive for several years, with 75 scouts in grades one through five donating one package each, together putting in about 375 service hours.
"It's the best service project we do," Cub Scout leader Dave Dellagnese said. "Kids at every age can be directly involved, and it's a way to learn about patriotism and service to the country."
Hoping for email pals
The scouts sent letters with their packages with their email addresses included, in the hope of starting conversations like they have already had with Sgt. Major Frank Parker of Brown Deer, who recently retired after 46 years in the Army.
Parker has volunteered with the donation drive in the past and talked with scouts about his service. He remembered how much he appreciated packages from home, skipping the coffee and hot shower he looked forward to on base to get right into the boxes.
"It was like Christmas even when it wasn't Christmas," he said. "You would all gather together in a room and open everything together and share everything."
Several of the volunteers also came from the Republican Women of Waukesha County. President of the organization, Brookfield resident Robin Moore, teared up as she explained why she voluneered.
"I've never been away from home," Moore said. " These are young men and women, and for a lot of them it might be their first time ever away from home. We want to send them a piece of home and let them know they're coming back to a thankful nation."
Hunzinger Construction accepts donations year-round at 21100 Enterprise Ave. in Brookfield.
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