Students at Dolores Elementary School lined up recently with boxes in their hands for Operation Little Bears Care.
All the students at the school had waited anxiously for this day, the day they would pack a box with letters, drawings, photos and a wide assortment of goodies to send to soldiers overseas.
When they get a package like this, they are getting love, volunteer Kaycee Ingram said.
Ingrams husband, Joe Ingram, is serving in the Middle East and wont return until July.
Ingram said their children, first-grader Tyler and kindergartner Trevor, are excited they get to send their father care packages.
The most heart has been put into this project by all these people, Ingram said.
Ingram, along with a half dozen other volunteers, were busy March 11 filling out custom forms for each one of the 293 packages to be mailed off that day.
This is the most tedious part, she said.
It wasnt easy to organize such a thing. The Dolores Elementary Parent Teacher Association, with Cyndi Presnell at the lead, started the project with an idea to have each class send a care package.
Its been amazing, said PTA member Monica Plewe. This started as a PTA project to have each class send a care package, but the community was so generous, it just grew.
March 11 was a culmination of the efforts with nearly $8,500 raised for the project all donations from 173 local businesses, individuals and organizations.
Sonic Drive-In, for example, donated boxes and boxes of small toys.
These can be a lifesaver, Presnell said.
Each Dolores Elementary student was told to put three toys in each box.
These are for the soldiers to give to the children over there, Presnell said of the toys. That can build a trust relationship with the locals.
In addition to toys, socks, insoles, books, a letter and artwork from students who packed the boxes, the packages contained snacks, personal hygiene products and much more.
Presnell said the insoles are important because the soldiers get sand in their boots and they wear out from the inside.
Ingram told her husband to expect a package packed by his sons and said he was excited. She said soldiers look forward to getting sweets and snacks.
MREs (meals ready to eat) dont come with sweets, Ingram said.
Presnell said many businesses donated because they had relatives overseas. If a local business knew someone stationed abroad, they would get their name and address. So most of the boxes going to soldiers overseas have local connections.
And the giving doesnt stop there.
Each soldier with a local connection will get 25 boxes, Presnell said. So the soldier can continue the giving and hand them out.
Presnell said her brother-in-law, Aaron Smith, who is stationed in Afghanistan, will get 25 packages. He will get to keep one for himself and hand out the others.
More than 30 volunteers were needed to make the project run smoothly March 11.
Mirid Weidner drove from Price, Utah, so she could help.
I think this is phenomenal, she said.