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Lotion. Lip gloss. Jewelry.
It’s not a holiday wish list – it’s a thank-you.
Apex-based nonprofit Support Military Spouses is giving about 2,200 shoeboxes filled with gifts to military spouses near Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.
To receive a Support Military Spouses shoebox at Fort Bragg, register at www.supportmilitaryspouses.org.
It’s the largest donation of its kind in the country, said Diane Rumley, the group’s co-founder.
“We do this because spouses have made such huge sacrifices on the homefront that so many people are unaware of,” Rumley said. “They often have to pick up and move and leave everything they know behind. They are left raising children on their own, and they are left behind to worry.”
The program began three years ago with 35 boxes delivered to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
The operation has grown so much that Support Military Spouses can no longer host its Fort Bragg delivery on the base. This year’s 1,000-box presentation to Army spouses will be at the Crown Center in Fayetteville on Dec. 4. Chaplains at Camp Lejeune will hand-deliver the remaining 1,150 boxes later this month.
Ultimately, the group’s goal is to give out 1.4 million shoeboxes a year. That’s one box for every active military spouse stationed in the United States and abroad, Rumley said.
Dozens of volunteers helped fill the boxes last week.
Pat Lancaster of Fuquay-Varina was happy to lend a hand, letting out a “woo hoo” and a “yay” as she slipped a card – the final touch – in each of the boxes before they were closed and packed.
Lancaster, a retired U.S. Air Force wife, understands what a kind gesture means to a military spouse. During the first 12 years of her marriage, her husband was deployed, serving multiple tours in Vietnam.
“A chaplain would come by and check on us,” she said. “The first time it happened I cried. Just that act of kindness, it touched my heart.”
Helping to fill the boxes was Lancaster’s way of letter military spouses know they’re not alone.
Volunteer Michael Hotchkiss, a former New York firefighter, saw the packing event as an opportunity to honor the families of veterans. His father served n the military.
“The fact that these spouses are left home and sometimes their sacrifice is forgotten – they are the true unsung heroes,” Hotchkiss said.