The Rotary Club of Cabarrus County's "Adopt-A-Soldier" program allows Rotarians, and now the public, to send care packages to soldiers overseas to help increase their morale.
Donors are encouraged to place well wishes and contact information in each box, and some local Rotarians receive direct responses from the soldiers. An effort for the group's fourth round of packages is underway and will be sent this spring to arrive Memorial Day.
Rotarian Steven Grubb started the project in 2009 after his friend, who was in his second tour in Iraq with the NC National Guard, told him about members of his unit that didn't receive much contact from home. Sgt. Paul Johnson sent a list of names and when Grubb saw how many there were, he asked the Rotary members if they'd like to "adopt" a soldier and create a care package for them.
"I wish this project wasn't necessary but as long as we have soldiers serving in Afghanistan or Iraq or other wars, we'll continue to send packages to these men and women," said Grubb. "Everyone who participates in this project knows they are performing a small random act of kindness that will help one or more soldiers and make them realize people back home haven't forgotten about them and appreciate what they're doing for our country."
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Two-year Rotarian Susan Rourke from Concord filled a box for an unknown soldier and got an unexpected email from the soldier who received her gift.
"She explained what her job was and she said that the care packages boosted morale," said Rourke about the e-mail. "Her battalion was glad to know that people back home supported them and cared about them because sometimes the papers and news people made it sound like they were out there on their own with no backing. Bottom line: it certainly made me feel better knowing that taking the time to send a box made a soldier's day better and let them that others cared about them."
Twenty-year Rotarian Cyndie Mynatt from Concord owns several automobile dealerships in the area and is used to receiving calls asking for help.
But the call she got from the soldier who received her gift box stopped her in her tracks.
"One Saturday morning I was in the office working when the phone rang and the fellow on the other end identified himself as the soldier to whom I'd sent my care package," she said. "Needless to say, I was shocked. I sat back in my chair to make sure I could hear him well and to give his call my undivided attention. I'm not sure how he got my phone number."
The soldier told Mynatt he was very surprised to get a package from anyone and that it meant so much to him to know a complete stranger had taken the time to consider him.
"We didn't talk long, but I was in a complete state of shock when I hung up," said Mynatt. "For him to take the time and initiative to find my number and call told me all I needed to know about the value of this Adopt-a-Soldier program. This call was a simple thanks and it was the only call I remember from that day."