Before the Christmas season is over, U.S. troops in Afghanistan will receive eight surprise boxes.

Before the Christmas season is over, U.S. troops in Afghanistan will receive eight surprise boxes.

Sent from McPherson County for McPherson County troops, the large packages will contain a slice of home — a welcome gift during a lonely holiday season. It’s this joyous feeling that fueled the project efforts of the American Legion family.

When discussing their Christmas plans in mid-November, some Legion members and volunteers decided they wanted to do something special for troops during the holiday. They collected $665 with the help of the community and used it to buy items to fill the boxes, such as clothing, toiletries, entertainment items, books and non-perishable food. Each box was about two feet square.

“It’s very exciting,” Anne Clark, Legion volunteer, said. “It makes you feel wonderful. When we put the stuff in the boxes, we were almost jumping up and down. It’s a good feeling to give back to them.”

Shipping alone cost $336.45, which was donated by the American Legion Riders.

The Junior Auxiliary, led by Ferne Anderson, also donated money and helped package the boxes. Jeff Peterson, member of the Sons of the American Legion and the American Legion Riders, said their involvement is important.

“Our kids today need to understand our troops are over there and not a home,” he said. “To get a magazine, a note in a box with some food from home, they need to understand how that would feel.”

The American Legion family has sent Christmas care packages in the past, but organizers this year hope this becomes an ongoing, year-round project assisted by the community.

An account will be established at Home State Bank and Trust to provide an avenue for donations. Organizers will then buy items in bulk for boxes to streamline costs and requests.

They also ask the community for names of troops they can send packages to in the future. If enough names and donations come in, they plan to send them as frequently as possible.

“We want them to know the community and the American Legion family is here for them,” Peterson said. “If I was sitting over there in the sand and I got a box like that, it would make me feel like home. It would make me feel like somebody at home was thinking about us. That’s why I did it.”

Project organizers hope their boxes can provide what the troops need, and also develop a friendship. This way troops will feel supported when they return home.

“There’s a lot of things we can do while they are there, but there’s also a lot of things we can do for them while they’re home,” Peterson said.

Until then, the McPherson community can partner with the Legion to offer what help they can.

“It’s teaching and reminding the public we’ve still got kids over there fighting for our freedom,” Peterson said.