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Not Your Average ‘Mail Bonding’; Military Support Program Links Church, U.S. Troops

 


Contact: Nancye Willis
(615) 742-5406
e-mail:
nwillis@umcom.org


May 14, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.— Now that the war in Iraq is officially over, daily life for U.S. troops is not as hazardous. But those far from home still are plagued by feelings of loneliness and isolation.

One small United Methodist church here is helping to combat those feelings, continuing to send care packages and letters. They’ve learned that helping others has helped them.

It was a letter from a relative that started this remarkable effort. Janice Fugua, a member of Schweitzer United Methodist Church, learned from her son-in-law that some of his fellow soldiers “never get a package from home.”

Fugua brought her concern to her church, which was already conducting a weekly support group within its ranks. Almost every member had at least one relative serving outside the United States.

(Schweitzer United Methodist Church’s story is featured on a UMTV video report the week of May 14. It is available at the UMTV Web site www.umtv.org.)

The group decided to expand its reach, joining hands with AdoptaPlatoon, a soldier-support grass-roots program. Now their effort includes 44 individuals plus their own, and letters, along with care packages filled with everything from ketchup to toothpaste, go out regularly.

Members decided that they wouldn’t let the program end with the war in Iraq. After all, says church member Milton Folkins, “Afghanistan is not over; Bosnia is not over; Korea is not over. We still have people deployed throughout the world.”

They love sending messages and treats, but love even more what comes next. Judy Folkins, a supporter of the program, says she “was pleasantly surprised when we started getting letters back. It was evidence what we were doing meant a great deal to them.”

One soldier wrote: “Hello, Schweitzer United Methodist. This is to thank the church for the care package.”

And another: “It is great to know we have such strong support back home.”

Judy Folkins sums it up: “To send these packages, in a way, is our therapy. That’s why it’s really nice to get these letters. We know that someone out there is still OK, and we know that they appreciated what we had done.”

Schweitzer United Methodist Church spends $350 to $400 a month on postage. It’s a financial challenge for the volunteers but they’re committed to writing to the soldiers as long as they can.

AdoptaPlatoon, a nonprofit organization founded by Ida Hägg, a Rio Hondo, Texas, United Methodist, provides mail and care packages to more than 10,000 service members deployed overseas. The program received the Newman’s Own Award for Contributions to Military Quality of Life in both 2001 and 2002.

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