Arlington troop-support program prepares care packages

The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 76 collected donations and filled 30 boxes to send overseas.

ARLINGTON — Boxes filled with goodies, from granola bars and crackers to lip balm and wet wipes, are part of a new effort by the American Legion Auxiliary in Arlington to recognize deployed military troops in a tangible way.

In just under a month, the program collected over $600 in monetary donations and about $100 worth of items for each soldier — enough to fill and ship 30 care packages.

“It’s just blown us away,” said Alex Jones, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 76. “This is a really super nice community.”

A sample troop-support box filled with snacks, personal hygiene items and other goodies now sits at the bar inside the American Legion post in Arlington with informational flyers for visitors to take.

“It’s the best seller,” Jones said. “People rifle through it and go, ‘Whoa, I can give some of these.’”

The group raised over $600 from tables outside the Legion’s post during Arlington’s Farmers Market on Saturdays, all of which went to pay for shipping costs and other box items.

Items were collected from people in the community, many of whom contributed to a collection barrel outside the Arlington Dollar Tree.

The troop-support program consolidated the donations, which were put together at the unit’s first packing night “mini party” on June 29.

Donated items filled each box, and individually wrapped candies served as packing peanuts. Handwritten notes from donors and a letter explaining the program are also included in the packages. After the auxiliary’s packing party, the boxes are shipped to military unit chaplains around the world who distribute the boxes to individual soldiers.

“We’re not so concerned about what soldier gets them,” Jones said, “we just want them to get to a soldier.”

Alex and her husband, Donald Jones, a former Navy service member, were previously involved in a troop-support program in Kirkland, but the program came to a halt amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The couple transferred their membership to the Arlington-area unit where they live.

The auxiliary acts as a separate unit from the American Legion and is composed of spouses and other female family members of American war veterans. However, the auxiliary shares the same values as the American Legion and supports the larger organization and the communities they serve.

Alex introduced the troop-support program at an Arlington auxiliary meeting where she brought a sample box for the women to see. The tangible sample box and a growing desire to “get involved in something” after the COVID-19 state lockdown gave the program an optimistic starting point.

Donald and Alex Jones say that they can’t speak about their program without acknowledging ALA Unit 76 president Teri Wilson and member Verna Mines, who gave their approval to start the troop-support program and served as mentors and friends throughout the process.

“They’ve really taken us under their wings,” Donald said.

Anyone is welcome to attend the packing nights, regardless of membership. Future packing nights are scheduled for 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month at The American Legion Post 76 at 115 N Olympic Ave.

“It keeps the community aware that we do have military that are always making sacrifices while deployed and are away from their families,” Alex said.

Donald and Alex plan to continue the project through the Arlington ALA and hope to ship 50 boxes every month with no end date in sight. Donald says there will always be military personnel to support abroad.

“We would like to see this thing spread through Washington and beyond our state border,” Donald said. “Our end game is to truly support our military and see this thing go much larger and bigger than us.”

Hannah Sheil:; 425-339-3463. Twitter @thehannahsheil

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