With more than 4,000 Mississippi National Guard soldiers currently deployed, people across the state want to show their support. One of them is Jennifer Harper of West Point. She has started a grassroots campaign to boost the troops. Her idea is to urge the public to donate items for care packages for members of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team. After she asked her employer, BankFirst in West Point, for permission to set up a display table and box for collections, the project took off.
“Since they approved the campaign, they’ve really stood behind this and contributed and done so much,” Harper said. Now BankFirst branches in Columbus and Starkville are coming on board as drop-off points through Aug. 31, too.
“The troops have always had a special place in my heart, and I always want to try to take care of them,” Harper said.
BankFirst Vice President and West Point branch manager Sandra Murray said, “We’re so proud of Jennifer. She’s a new employee and she has a passion for the community and especially for the troops. That’s what we like about our bank — our employees get involved with our community.”
Items requested for the care packages include travel-size hygiene products, wet wipes, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and foot powder.
Food items might include Slim Jims, tuna packets, sunflower seeds and heat-resistant candies like Twizzlers, Sweet Tarts or Jolly Ranchers, said Harper.
“Very important is personal letters to the soldiers, thank you cards, greeting cards, anything personal — kids can draw pictures to put in the boxes,” she added.
Harper compiled the needs list with the help of military members who have been deployed. That’s how she learned that something most people take for granted — like packets of hot sauce or honey — can be a welcome treat to servicemen and women far from home.
“It’s just things they need or can use that they don’t have easy access to,” Harper remarked.
Murray is a former U.S. Air Force spouse and understands the impact of support from home.
“I know how important it is for these troops to know that their communities are proud of what they do,” she said.
Response to the drive has already been strong, Harper and Murray confirmed. When the drive concludes, the items will be sent to members of the 155th. Monetary donations at any drop-off location to help cover shipping costs are welcome.
Harper does not have any family deployed; her concern for military members serving abroad stems instead from a personal sense of patriotism.
“I love this country, and we wouldn’t have this country without our soldiers,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.