In a small room above an American Legion post in Whitestone three members of the North Shore Marine Corps League packed boxes with supplies last Thursday to send to servicemen and women stationed in Afghanistan. It is something the group has done for years, and members say its neccessity has never declined.
Each week several of the 30 Marines who volunteer to participate in the program — there are 95 members in the organization — send out a minimum of 24 boxes to individual troops in every branch of the service, whose names they obtain from military sources.
This method ensures that the servicemembers receive the packages quicker than if they were shipped to a company or brigade, because then they could sit in a hangar for months until someone retrieves them, according to Joe Robinson, chairman of the league.
He served in the Marines from 1952 to 1961, as part of the military police, in food service and as a rifleman or “grunt” in combat during the Korean War.
“I came out and I stayed active with the Marine Corps League to support our younger brothers and sisters — whatever we can do,” Robinson said. “And this is part of what we do.”
The boxes contain items including: snacks, hand and feet warmers, magazines, knit hats, pens, paper, toiletries including deodorant, hand sanitizer, shaving cream and baby wipes, and even letters of encouragement written by area school children.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Robinson said of helping the troops.
“They are out there in the middle of combat, but they still find time to send us handwritten thank you letters,” chimed in Bill Novak, senior vice commandant of the group. He served as a sergeant in the Marines from 1961 to 1967.
Each box can hold up to 20 pounds, but the league usually only sends about eight to 12 pounds of products at a time. It costs $13.45 to ship via the United States Postal Service. They get a discount since the items are going to military personnel, but its only about a $1, Robinson said.
The price has increased recently, but the organization said it shouldn’t impact the number of boxes they ship as long as their funding remains constant. The program costs between $5,000 and $7,000 annually.
The league started the care package program in 2005, and the items are donated by various community organizations, business professionals and schools. They are also purchased by using the monetary contributions the league receives.
Robinson said the group is always looking for donations. He can be reached at (718) 888-1159 for more information or a check, made out to the Marine Corps League, can be sent to his attention at at 10-20 Clintonville St., Whitestone, NY 11357.
About 90 percent of the funding comes from the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal group. It has raised over $100,00 in the last five to six years, Robinson said.
“Thank God the Pythians help us,” added James Seaman Sr., commandant of the group, who served as a corporal in the Marines from 1978 to 1983, working primarily as a helicopter mechanic, and was stationed in Israel when the Marine barracks in neighboring Lebanon were bombed. “Without the Pythians’ help we probably wouldn’t be able to do as much as we do now.”