RSVP gathers donations for holiday care packages for Brooksville National Guard unit

BROOKSVILLE — Holiday gift boxes packed with necessities and niceties from home are en route to 52 Brooksville-based Florida Army National Guard enlistees who will be spending Christmas in Kosovo.

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Hernando County on Saturday delivered to the National Guard Armory a collection of coffee, snacks, candy, and personal care and leisure items, to be shipped this week to the men and women of the guard's 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment.

They are part of the Black Hawk helicopter unit that was deployed in March for a year in support of peacekeeping operations in the southeastern European republic.

During a three-week drive for donations, RSVP rounded up more than enough for 52 boxes, said project organizer Abby Ebert.

"Whatever is left over, we ask her to give to their families," Ebert said.

The "her" is Vanessa Smith, the family readiness group officer for the unit, who has not only packed the boxes with each individual in mind, but also written personal greetings to each recipient.

"I know all 52," Smith said.

Her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brad Smith, is among those who will not be with their families for the holidays.

Vanessa Smith noted that most holiday gift collections for the military overseas are destined to those serving in the Middle East; others assigned elsewhere around the globe are largely unknown.

So, the aim of the local gift offering to Kosovo, she said, "is basically that we know they are there and we're all missing them during the holidays."

The three-week rush to collect donations came about when the military families, for whom RSVP intended to provide gifts, sent word that they would rather their military relatives receive the you're-not-forgotten donations, Ebert explained.

With the usual outpouring of shipments to the military during the holidays, and their need to pass through security, Smith said overseas mailings need to be posted by late October to be in the hands of recipients by Christmas.

The boxes will include the military's No. 1 request: coffee.

"They're basically on duty 24 hours, so caffeine is important," Smith pointed out.

She expressed pleasure that donors provided personal care items for women, who are among those deployed. Leisure items included puzzle books and playing cards.

Smith thanked the RSVP volunteers for organizing the donation drive.

"We're very grateful they are very supportive of the military in this community," she said. "A little remembrance is a beautiful thing."

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

RSVP gathers donations for holiday care packages for Brooksville National Guard unit 10/29/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 6:27pm]

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