HICKORY, NORTH CAROLINA -- Piles of goodies donated by companies across the state were turned into love and support for deployed North Carolina National Guard Soldiers thanks to St. Stevens Lutheran School students, NCNG Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund members and local business executives in Hickory, North Carolina, Jan. 31, 2018.
Retired NCNG leaders and members of Soldiers and Airmen Fund Air Force Col. Steven Martin and Army Sgt. Maj. Dennis Roach, Col. Drew Goodwin helped plan the event at Hackney Service Merchandisers, a local company, with Hickory businessman and retired Army Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. Dean Cline Sr.
Hackney provided storage space for the $250,000 worth of snacks and comfort items that the 23 St Stephens' students were to load into nearly 500 care packages soon to be shipped to deployed NCNG Soldiers worldwide.
Cline used years of experience in shipping and his business contacts to get donations for the packages.
"You have to know how it works, connections mean everything," said Cline.
Under the watchful eye of the retired servicemembers and school staff, the 7th and 8th grade students pack, sort and stack the boxes. They walked in a circle carrying a package to be shipped around several tables covered with donated items. Carefully each package is filled to the top with local popcorn, popular candies, cookies, toiletries, other gifts and lastly a note from home.
In less than 2 hours, the last package was taped shut, one for each deployed Soldier.
"It was a cool opportunity to help Soldiers and put a smile on their faces," said Hannah Mingus, a 7th grade student at St. Stephens.
After the last box was checked Cline thanked the students for all their hard work.
"I wanted to get them involved and to know that the National Guard leaves home and deploys and we have to take care of them and their families," said Cline.