Basic needs fill holiday care packages for soldiers
U.S. Navy veteran Gary Magnani knows what it’s like to spend the holidays far from home and loved ones. He served in both the Vietnam and Gulf wars, worlds away from the tinsel and traditions of Christmas.
“You can’t imagine,” he says. “I’ve been there, done that.”
Magnani is now on a mission to brighten the holidays for troops serving in Afghanistan, his fourth year coordinating a Christmas care-package program as commander of Jack London Post 489 of the American Legion in Sonoma Valley.
Last year the post sent more than 300 care packages to soldiers, generating heartfelt responses of thanks and appreciation for such simple items as gum, lip balm, pens and notebooks.
This year, they hope to top that number.
Soldiers from Sonoma Valley are first on the list, followed by those from Sonoma County and beyond. Efforts are made to create hometown connections: cards from school kids and scouts, notes of support and encouragement from area residents.
“I know the meaning and value of these packages,” Magnani says. “That’s why I’m so passionate about this project.”
The program depends on community support. The post holds an annual dance to raise money for shipping expenses – more than $4,000 in costs last year.
And now that the holiday season is in motion, Magnani asks the public to donate whatever’s possible, no matter how small. The American Legion has collection bins throughout Sonoma Valley with flyers listing the most requested items.
Pocket-sized items are best, Magnani says.
“These are guys out there in the mountains in the most remote places doing patrols. Anything they can put in their pockets to make it convenient, that’s what the thought is,” he says.
Donations will be accepted through Thursday (Nov. 29). Collection bins are located in Sonoma at Safeway and Lucky and at various locations throughout the valley. Donations also can be delivered to the former Sonoma Bookends location in the Marketplace Shopping Center, 201 W. Napa St., Suite 15, on Thursday (Nov. 29) while volunteers are sorting and preparing for the next day’s packaging.
Cash donations, payable to the American Legion, can be sent to: American Legion Jack London Post 489, P.O. Box 578, Sonoma 95476. Donors should note “Christmas packages.”
For more information, call Gary Magnani at 364-3995.
– Dianne Reber Hart