Advancing National Service

The Story Behind the Boxes Bringing Holiday Cheer to Veterans

December 5, 2014
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The Story Behind the Boxes Bringing Holiday Cheer to Veterans
The St. John’s Veterans Project was founded to bring a bit of the holidays to hospitalized and homeless veterans. John Moore/Getty Images
More than 3,000 care packages have been distributed to veterans and soldiers.

Back in 2006, students at St. John’s Lutheran school in Westland, Mich., decided they wanted to bring some holiday cheer to veterans in V.A. hospitals, homeless veterans and soldiers serving overseas. So they collected donations from the community and put together care packages that met the needs of each of these groups — distributing 200 boxes in total.

This year, the St. John’s Veterans Project has filled 300 boxes, including 50 for homeless veterans making the transition to permanent housing that are stocked with items that will help them settle in. This year’s generosity brings the total of care packages the St. John’s Veterans Project has delivered past 3,000, including the 30 that were mailed to soldiers serving in Okinawa, Japan.

The 44 students that work on the project have expanded their mission, delivering hundreds of blankets, coats, scarves, mittens and other warm clothing items to the V.A.s in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Detroit.

The students personally deliver the packages to the patients at the V.A. and spend time chatting and singing Christmas carols with the veterans.

Kendra Schaffer, mother of former St. John’s students Anna and Bethany Schaffer who help organize the project, tells Hometown Life, “We’ll take anything and everything. There’s no deadline for donations. We can store stuff for next year. It’s important people know that this is year-round.”

People give clothing, food, and household items for the vets, and Thrivent Financial foots the bill for shipping the packages overseas. The students and others from the community write cards and letters to include.

Bethany said her favorite part is delivering the packages to the patients at the V.A. “It’s more personal and it’s always nice to see how thankful they are. I like seeing the gruff ones that say don’t come in here, leave it on the table. Two years ago we saw a young man who was rolling [in] bed because of pain. We asked if we could sing him a Christmas song, and he said yes.”

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