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Sending 'A Touch of Home' to troops

Soldiers who receive boxes packed by A Touch of Home get more than just snacks and supplies.

The prayers and love of the people who pack them are also included.

A Touch of Home, a group of people from Woodbury and Cottage Grove, started sending boxes with food and reminders of home to members of the military serving overseas about seven years ago.

It began in Mary Peterson's basement in Cottage Grove with members of Crossroads Church and other friends who assembled and filled boxes once a month.

At first, the group had a list of military members to send to that included those close to the group. For example, Linda and Rod Lehrke had three sons serving in war zones who are now at home.

But as soon as soldiers came off the list after they came home, others were added, so the group continues on, headquartered out of Crossroads Church.

After hearing suggestions from those in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones, the group has boxing ingredients down to a fine science.

When they meet to pack, as they did early Saturday, June 19, they set up an assembly line. Children in the church, with the help of adults, pick out items to send to their soldier from prepackaged snacks, fruit drinks, books and candy. Items really needed in the war environment include socks and lip balm -- lots of lip balm, Peterson said.

Children read about their soldier in a notebook Linda Lehrke keeps updating with information about those who are serving and their families.

The children draw pictures and make cards to send in the boxes thanking those who will receive them for their service.

At its height, the group packed 56 boxes one month. In June, they packed 26.

The group keeps going, not just because of all the thank-yous they get from those who get the boxes, but because they are committed to their cause.

"We've got to do something," Lehrke said.

But before the boxes head for the Woodbury Post Office, there's one last task after a group picture is taken of all who took part in packing day.

Everyone gathers around the boxes, stacked and ready to go, to add their prayers that all who receive them will return home safe.

Boxes cost about $10 each to mail. The group survives on contributions and what they can give from their own pockets.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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