When Marine mom Dawn Geigan heard about United States soldiers in Afghanistan living in dreadful conditions, she felt a call to help. She'd heard that our soldiers were sleeping on the ground with rocks as pillows, many with no access to showers and using baby wipes to clean up — if they could even get those.
Her heart went out to these men and women, so she put together a care package and sent it off, and then another, and then another.
"I sent snack and personal care items. I sent boxes of pillows and pillow cases. I wanted to help every one of them," Geigan said. "Although my son is a Marine, he is not on this deployment. However, as Marine moms say, they are all our sons."
Soon, through word of mouth, Geigan's neighbors, old classmates she'd reconnected with through Facebook and numerous veterans who had heard of her mission were sending donations.
"I was mailing many care packages every other day and including notes which I had handwritten thanking the troops," she said. "The Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders and playmakers had given me many handwritten cards for the troops which I included as well. I was hoping that the notes from them and myself would be a positive part of their deployment. Some of my friends — Jenny Giroux-Hankewycz and Marlene Gienow — also sent packages on their own too."
The Marines of Weapons Company sent a note back. Part of the note read, "First and foremost, it has been a blessing to receive the packages you all have sent to us during the last month. The last shipment couldn't have come at a better time as one of my platoons were leaving for Syria and needed what you all sent more than ever! They were very happy to stuff their pockets and their backpacks for the journey with the goodies you all took the time to pack." The note also thanked Girl Scout Troop 28259 for items they had included in the shipment.
When Geigan mentioned what she was doing to her friends at the Ravens Roost 115 in Westminster, they were quick to join her in the crusade, naming it the "We've Got Your Back" Care Package Project.
Ravens Roost 115 is a nonprofit group whose members are fans of the Baltimore Ravens. Their members, including Geigan, get together for social events and they also raise funds for local charities. One member, Manchester photographer Michelle Albright, held a free photo shoot on July 1 and 2, offering families free photos of their kids in exchange for a bag of donations to the troops.
"I even got a donation of over 20 deodorants from a stranger who I now know as Michelle DeLoach who works at Safeway," Geigan said.
When more items than she could handle began pouring into the Geigan household, she asked the Ravens Roost to join her in a packing party. Geigan said it took them four hours — assembly line style — to pack up 46 boxes of items on July 5.
"Everyone jumped right in and took a task," she said, noting that Carol and Calli Mastrangelo put together boxes while Deanna Utermahlen, Janet Beckelhimer and herself filled them. Celeste Brown filled out customs forms for every box while Jackie Day addressed them. The next day, Geigan stopped by the Westminster post office to give them a heads up that she would be coming in to mail stacks of boxes, care packages for our troops. She didn't want them to be blindsided.
Geigan said postal workers were prepared when stacks of boxes arrived the next day. At $17 to $18 per box, the donations were pricey to ship. Then, a stranger in line at the post office offered a generous donation to go toward the shipping, touching them all.
The group sent so many packages that the FRO (Family Readiness Officer) asked them to not send any more items until instructed, probably in late August or early September. And this group of generous volunteers said they will be ready, when the time comes, to do it again.
Three cheers for Dawn Geigan, her neighbors and friends, multiple kind-hearted veterans, the Ravens Roost and the wonderful post office staff.
Each Sunday evening in July, neighbors and visitors to the Westminster City Park are treated to music that wafts over the air through the surrounding neighborhood. Westminster Parks and Recreation's Westminster's Month of Sundays concerts kicked off on July 9 with the Beach Boys tribute band, Endless Summer, followed by the Santana tribute band, Gringo Jingo, set to play July 16.
On Sunday, July 23, look for the band Jah Works with reggae music. On July 30, you will find the Jimmy Buffet tribute band, Caribbean Chillers. Each scheduled band will play from 6:45 to 9 p.m. on July Sundays.
Concert attendees should bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The Shepherd's Staff's is seeking donations of school essentials for its "Back-to-School" program, which will provide school supplies and needs for Carroll County students in need in the upcoming school year.
Items of particular need include tabbed dividers (1- and 1 1/2-inch), three-ring binders, Duo-Tang folders, colored pencils and wide-ruled paper and new backpacks. They are also accepting monetary donations to purchase new shoes, new and nearly new school clothing, plus new books. These items will be being accepted through July 21.
Donations can be dropped off at The Shepherd's Staff, 30 Carroll Street, Westminster on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
For a complete list of school supplies needed or for more information, contact The Shepherd's Staff at 410-857-5944 or visit their website at www.shepstaff.org.