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St. Joseph's parishioners pack Christmas for the troops

December 22, 2010 | 08:38 AM
Lyons — Right about now, boxes containing a little bit of Christmas joy should be arriving for Walworth County troops and their friends serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, courtesy of St. Joseph's Parish, 1540 Mill St., Lyons.

More than 100 St. Joseph parishioners spent about an hour and a half Dec. 1 packing boxes measuring 12-inches by 12-inches by 6 inches deep.

Each family filled a box with all kinds of holiday stuff, said Rita VanSchyndel, who helped organize this year's box packing. Packing began at 7 p.m. and finished up at 8:30 p.m., she said.

The boxes were sent on behalf of the Walworth County VFW posts, which also sponsor weekly Support Our Troop rallies at the Walworth County Government Center, 100 W. Walworth St., Elkhorn.

VanSchyndel said the boxing day was organized with the help of her sister-in-law, Cathy Jacques of Elkhorn, whose son, Bob Jacques, served two tours of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Her son is back in the states now, Jacques said, but she and the St. Joseph parishioners are not forgetting those still overseas.

Jacques is also a member of the VFW's Support Our Troops Committee.

Last year, the group, all members of St. Joseph's Religious Education Program, packed 50 boxes for Walworth County's men and women overseas, VanSchyndel said.

This year, because there are fewer overseas, the number of boxes was less.

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VanSchyndel recalls 22 boxes being packed. Jacques said she believes it was closer to 30.

The boxes contain Santa hats, popcorn, snacks, toiletries, magazines, Christmas cards, toothbrushes, puzzles, games, and even little Christmas trees. Some of the items are gift-wrapped.

Almost everything in the boxes, except for the trees and Santa hats, was donated by the St. Joseph's parishoners, Jacques said.

The hats and trees came from the Support Our Troops Committee.

The boxes are APO-FPO flat rate boxes that ship for $12.50 to military sites, she said.

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And that's a good thing. Because the St. Joseph's folks know how to pack a box.

Jacques said the boxes varied in weight from 8 pounds 15 ounces, to 12 pounds 10 ounces.

Fitting everything into the boxes is an art, VanSchyndel said, using a variety of tricks and techniques to squeeze out every square inch of air space.

For example, when packing granola bars, take the bars out of the box and pack them individually, she said.

The amazing thing, she added, was that after stuffing each with snacks and gifts, there was still enough room for the little 6-inch tall Christmas trees.

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Jacques said she brought a friend, Anthony Anzalone of Elkhorn, who is in the Army Reserve, to talk with the kids. He wore his camouflage uniform.

She also brought maps of Iraq and Afghanistan to show where the boxes were going.

About 16 boxes went to soldiers with Walworth County ties, Jacques said.

With stuff left over, another 14 boxes were filled that went to friends of Walworth County soldiers, Jacques said.

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