Care packages send soldiers a taste of home

Lifestyles: Volunteers adopt several soldiers stationed overseas

of the GatewayMarch 12, 2014 

A group of volunteers placed snacks, books and more into boxes that were lined up on Tineke Geringer’s kitchen island. Geringer has lots of practice with care packages. She’s been sending them once a month for about seven years.

“I can get more stuff in these boxes than anyone else,” she said.

It all began when Geringer and her husband, Larry, were watching a documentary that moved her. It was about troops abroad, and the end of the film encouraged viewers to “adopt” soldiers by sending care packages.

Geringer is the Caring For the Troops chair of the 26th Legislative District’s Republican Club. A group of volunteers meet in her kitchen on the first Wednesday of every month to pack boxes to send to soldiers. It’s a way to show support and to brighten up a soldier’s day.

“Some of those soldiers over there don’t get any mail at all,” volunteer Diana Landahl said.

Jack Keel stuffed fresh-baked cookies, socks and magazines into a care package. As a former soldier, he knows the importance of mail.

“I spent a tour in Vietnam, so I know what this is all about,” he said. “It’s a hell of a moral boost when you’re stuck in the boondocks.”

It’s about more than postage for Geringer. Recently, the group hosted a welcome-home party for a local Airman who returned from Kuwait and a soldier who returned from Afghanistan.

Geringer likes to get letters from soldiers, and she said it’s encouraging to hear how much they appreciate the packages.

“I don’t do it for that, but it’s so nice to hear from them,” she said.

One letter, from Christmas, left Geringer wordless. It came from a female soldier named Krystal in response to a box of goodies. Krystal wrote that the box brought Christmas to her.

“We didn’t realize how much it would touch her,” Geringer said.

Geringer doesn’t adopt soldiers exclusively through the Soldiers’ Angels program. Sometimes it’s serendipitous the way they come into her life.

Once, on a getaway to Pacific Beach, she attended a service at a small church. The pastor spoke about a man who was about to be deployed. After the service, Geringer spoke to the pastor, and the soldier turned out to be his son. When Geringer asked if she could adopt his son and send packages, he teared up and said, “Of course you can.”

Another soldier she adopted is the son-in-law of a woman she met at a bank.

“I meet people, and I adopt them,” she said.

The recipients are from all over the country, but it’s nice when they can be local men and women, Geringer said.

Geringer and her husband served in the armed forces. They are Air Force veterans who met at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. The couple likes to travel and once visited injured soldiers who were recovering at an Air Force hospital in Germany.

The highlight of the boxes are fresh-baked cookies. Claudia Moseley and Carolyn Flintoff bake them — they were ginger snaps this month — and Thelma Keel has found a way to pack them so they make the long trek unscathed.

Keel surrounds a stack of cookies with two cupcake papers, and then she wraps the stack in wax paper and finishes the package with tinfoil.

The cookies are a big hit with soldiers, Keel said.

Kindergartners at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church make cards bedecked with American flags and stickers. The box-packing group also includes a note.

“We always send cards and write in them to show our support,” Geringer said.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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