Karen Cote, of Berlin Connecticut is doing a remarkable gesture this holiday season. Most of us are fortunate enough to get to spend the holidays with our family and friends in our own homes. Most have the luxury of being able to enjoy delicious food, tasty desserts, and maybe even exchange a small gift or two with someone you love.
Service members who are overseas do not get this luxury. They are stationed away in another country with no friends, no loved ones; risking their lives every day for their country. When having a loved one that is overseas, it is natural to miss them and think of them every day, especially during the holidays you might think to send them a care package.
What about the service members who don’t have a family back home? What about the ones who never receive anything to remind them of the peace and happiness they felt during the holidays before enlisting for our country.
This is why Karen Cote is such an astonishing woman. It all began after her son was deployed to Kuwait in 2015. Every Thanksgiving, she began sending care packages overseas. Soon the charity organization “Hero Boxes” was established in Berlin CT by Karen herself.
Including as Many Service Members as Possibly.
Karen decided to take this organization to another level. She wanted to make as many care packages as possible to distribute to as many service members as she could. She started collecting donations around town. She begin to post on her website and created a Facebook page that got very popular rather quickly in Berlin and the surrounding towns. She created a list of items that can be donated that she knows will put a smile on any service members face during the holiday season.
Berlin, being a small knit community, embraced this idea which spread rapidly. She was getting a great deal of donations. In Cotes first year of operation, she sent 125 care packages to her sons unit for the holiday season. Since then, she has been able to collect enough donations to send care packages to 1,850 military personnel overseas over the last 5 years.
This year, Karen organized a committee of volunteers. She hosted over 1,000 community members at the Local VFW for “Giving Thanks to our Troops night”. on Saturday November 9th. These Volunteers helped wrap individual gifts such as snacks, toiletries, clothing, and any other donations that were made to the organization.
Karen and her volunteers managed to wrap and put together 607 care packages for this holiday season. The packages will arrive just in time to be distributed to the service members right before Christmas.
The Help from the volunteers is what made this all possible. There were so many generous donations that Karen was not going to be able to package them and ship them in time all by herself. The engagement the community has had with this charity organization is remarkable.
“None of this would have been possible without all of the amazing volunteers. The website and the facebook page was all managed by volunteers and we would not have been able to do it without them.” Says Cote.
Thankful Service Members and Thankful Citizens
This is not Karens first rodeo sending care packages to military units. Most important, military personnel who have received care packages are so thankful that strangers are thinking about them by showing their gratitude to others they have never met. Holidays can be lonely and depressing for service members overseas, but this act of kindness helps those feel the love that everyone should feel through these delightful months.
This is one small way we can say thank you to our troops as a community and let them know we are always thinking of them all the time, especially during the holidays.