Stella Mailman and other members of the NL Women’s Institute, Port au Choix branch, got together recently to pack special parcels for members of the military who won’t be home for Christmas.
“It all started with the Persian Gulf War, 27 years ago, when we had two gentlemen from Port au Choix in the Persian Gulf. We started off sending packages to them. And we kept it up,” Mailman said.
There are 15 women in the Port au Choix branch of the NL Women’s Institute.
Mailman has been involved with the project for all 27 years.
“I have nobody in the service, but I know they are out there working for us,” she said. “What they are doing, they are doing for us.
“And if we can do one little thing to say ‘Thank-you for your service,’ and make them feel good for Christmas when they are away from their families, that’s something we want to do.”
Mailman said the project is supported not only by individuals but by service clubs and local businesses in the area.
This year’s parcels are going to military personnel from numerous areas of the province including St. Anthony, Corner Brook, Carbonear, Burgeo and the St. John’s area, many of whom are serving with the Navy.
While all 14 packages are addressed to one particular person, Mailman said, once they are opened, the contents are shared amongst their troop mates.
The goodies inside include everything from Purity products to hand sanitizer and toothpaste to Vienna sausages.
“One of the big items that we put in is Northern Pen’s... we make sure (a recent edition of the newspaper) goes in each package because we know they like to get news from home,” Mailman said.
Each parcel also contains a Christmas card with the names of all of those who donated to the project.
Parcels have been sent to Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Romania as well as other areas.
Mailman said she’s received numerous thank-you notes over the years from those who have received a parcel.
John White of Port au Choix is one of the men who received a package 27 years ago.
White served over three decades with the Navy and is currently involved with the Cadet Instructor Cadre.
When contacted by phone about receiving the parcel, White did indeed remember the kind gesture, albeit it was almost 30 years ago.
“The package from home was a warm welcome in a sea of confusion,” he recalled. “It showed that the people at home were concerned and wanted to contribute—in their own way—to make our life a little easier.
“The treats and items that they sent were greatly appreciated and were shared amongst us.”
In a letter to the Women’s Institute dated February 1991, White thanked them for the gifts and told the women about the job he and his shipmates were doing in the Persian Gulf.
Those serving their country today would likely relate to the words White wrote 27 years ago.
“The support that we find coming from all across Canada helps us get through these times and makes us realize that we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world,” he wrote.