“It’s my little thing I can do from here to help,” she said.
And even though her son, who is currently serving in Iraq, has plenty of support from home, she says that many of the soldiers overseas do not have family that keep in contact with them, and others have families that do not support their service overseas.
“A lot of guys don’t get anything; some of their families don’t support them. I like to show support, let them know that they are not forgotten,” she said.
She sends the packages to soldiers like this and to friends that Andrew has made while serving in the Marines. She said she feels like a surrogate mom to some of them and regularly sends text messages to four or five soldiers.
The care packages are put together with items that soldiers have requested – items like batteries, candy and phone cards – things that help when they are out “on the field” and cannot make it to the dining area or back to base. To make the package a little more special, she includes a hand written personal note inside.
Ard also gets ideas of what to put in the care packages directly from her son. He lets her know what he and his comrades like and dislike, but most of all, he tells her how much the soldiers appreciate it.
“They love it, it makes them so happy. Sometimes they think we forget them, but this shows we have not,” she said.
Ard has assembled a small group to help her collect items. Her daughter Tiffany, sister-in-law Betty Oliver and other people she has met through the project go to Wal-Mart on Saturdays when items are needed. They pass out a list to customers as they enter the store and then collect the items as they leave.
“I just wanted to do something, something to help … it seems like
everybody’s behind us,” said Oliver.
Tiffany likes to help because she has two special people in her life that are in the military — her brother and her boyfriend, who is in the Army and has served in Iraq as well.
“This has been great, it gives [the soldiers] something to look forward to,” she said.
Ard was skeptical of how the community would react to the idea of care packages at first, but making the care packages is something important to her. “They are fighting for our country and our freedom,” she said.
Being new to the area and not knowing many people, she and her
daughter decided to set up at Wal-Mart because of how many people come in and out of the store on a daily basis.
“With the economy the way it is, I wasn’t sure how it would go over, but the community has been quite supportive,” she said.
Many people have approached her and told her that they have loved ones overseas, so she has collected their addresses to send items to them as well. She has even had a soldier who received three Purple Hearts donate 10 bags full of items to help. The response has been so great that she has an overstock of some requested items and has recently had to revamp the list.
In addition to donations for the care packages, Ard said another thing that is needed is money donations.
“Cash donations really help,” she said. Those donations go toward costs to mail the packages to Iraq. Ard will sometimes send up to 40 boxes at a time and the boxes cost $10 each to ship.
Andrew is scheduled to return from his second deployment in Iraq in November. Nevertheless, she says she will keep sending the packages overseas.
“As long as I see the community is behind me [with the care packages],” she said. “I totally support the soldiers.”
For more information on getting involved or how to help, contact Ard at (912) 587-7835.