Islanders show soldiers they care
Thanks to the efforts of many people on Martha's Vineyard, Island soldiers know they are not forgotten. Appeals for donations, including a recent one in March, have resulted in generous responses that funded the purchase and shipment of food and personal items to servicemen stationed overseas.
Estelle Burnham of Edgartown spearheaded the most recent effort with Bob Pacheco, owner of Reliable Market, and Dukes County Veteran's Agent Jo Ann Murphy. Ms. Burnham organized and managed the food drive, Mr. Pacheco ordered and provided the food items, and Ms. Murphy handled the shipping.
"I started thinking about the war and how I wanted the boys to come home," said Ms. Burnham, explaining what inspired the food drive. "Then I thought, what can I do, an elderly lady in a wheelchair?" She talked about her idea with her brother, Arthur Honig, who used to work for Mr. Pacheco, and they worked out the details with him and Ms. Murphy.
Ms. Burnham said they received about $2,500 in donations after news briefs about their fundraising were published in The Times. Based on advice from soldiers returning from Iraq, Ms. Murphy worked with Mr. Pacheco in purchasing food such as peanut butter and jelly, Ritz crackers, canned fruit, beans, and sardines, and Cracker Jacks. A local Girl Scout troop donated cookies.
Ms. Murphy used her dining room table as the collection center. Some inmates from the House of Corrections boxed up the items for shipping as part of their community service requirements. Ms. Murphy included copies of The Times in the boxes, as well.
"I'm amazed at people's support," she said, which included helpful advice - and patience - from the staff at the Vineyard Haven Post Office, where she shipped 35 boxes a few weeks ago to soldiers in Iraq, Guam, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
Last November, Ms. Murphy, Oak Bluffs police clerk Jeannie Pierson, and Tisbury planning board administrative secretary Pat Harris coordinated Island-wide collection efforts for holiday care packages of food and personal care items to ship to Vineyard military personnel.
Ms. Murphy later received several thank-you letters for the gift boxes, including one from the Military Police Company in Iraq with which Sgt. Daniel Dunlap is stationed.
"The gesture received helps give soldiers a sense of appreciation and support from their fellow Americans," wrote Sgt. Andrew Haswell and Capt. John Soto. "Always remember that small acts in a big war go a long way in soldiers' and their families' hearts."
Lt. James Hagerty wrote Ms. Murphy about how grateful he and his fellow Marines were for white socks they received. "The black ones we have to wear in the States burn up our feet when we patrol during the day," he said.
Ms. Burnham would like to make the food drive an ongoing project. "A lot of times, I don't think people realize we are at war - it's so removed," she said. "We want the soldiers to know that we do remember and that we care." For information about donating, call Ms. Burnham at 508-627-9521.