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Volunteers send troops a 'piece of home'

July 04, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

WILLIAMSPORT -- It wasn't just the music, the food or the evening's fireworks that drew dozens of people to Byron Memorial Park on Saturday.

It was zip-top bags -- 300 of them -- piled on a table in the community building.

One by one, an army of volunteers filled each gallon-size bag with powdered drinks, granola bars, peanuts, notepads and toiletries.

On a day that Americans celebrated living in the land of the free, residents of Williamsport saluted those who preserve that freedom by sending them care packages.

The effort was spearheaded by Williamsport Town Council member Tearza Knode, who thought it would be the perfect way to mark the Fourth of July.

"We are at home, with family and friends, celebrating our freedom," she said. "But many men and women aren't here today. They are far away, serving our country in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a way of showing our appreciation and delivering the comforts of home, wherever they are."

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Like a well-oiled machine, volunteers made their way around two large tables, assembling the care packages, while others wrote thank-you cards.

Knode said the project wouldn't have been possible without donations and contributions from the Town of Williamsport, local businesses and organizations.

"Everyone has been excited about this project," she said. "I would love to see this become a new tradition -- something we would do every year. I've been getting a lot of input from people, so it can only get bigger and better."

Knode said the packages will be delivered to three local servicemen, who will divide them among each of their bases.

"I feel like we're sending them a piece of home," she said. 

Among the Williamsport residents lending a hand Saturday afternoon was Jeanette Monteith, who was accompanied by her 8-year-old daughter, Gigi.

"I've been trying to answer President Obama's call to community service," Monteith said. "I've also wanted to find a way to teach my daughter about the importance of volunteer work. This event came along at the perfect time."

Monteith said the day had particular significance for the family, since Gigi's great-great-grandfather's birthday was July 4.

"He served in World War I, so this is a way to make today meaningful to her life," she said. "We put off our Fourth of July plans to come here today. That's how important I thought it was."

"I think it's a very nice gesture," Sherri Taylor of Williamsport said. "It's a wonderful way to show our appreciation to our military and those troops serving overseas. Since it's the Fourth of July, it's a very appropriate activity."

"Our troops deserve something like this," said Jerry Knode of Williamsport. "I'm sure anything we send them will be appreciated. This is a very good way to spend the Fourth of July."

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