As a mother of two men who served overseas, Beth Flinn believes care packages show deployed military men and women they have supporters at home.
Joshua Herring, 31, was in the Marines for 10 years, and Kyle Flinn, 27, was in the Army for six years. When her sons were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, Flinn sent them goodies from home. Although her sons are home, she and other women from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars branch regularly send care packages to other sons and daughters serving abroad.
“It’s always good to let the troops know that they are thought of and that we do appreciate all that they’re doing for the country,” said Flinn, who is the president of the post's Ladies Auxiliary.
Flinn and others gathered on Saturday at VFW Post 1512 to bake homemade cookies and assemble other food and toiletries for deployed marines based in Miramar.
While Flinn prepared peanut butter cookies, Diane Paige prepared “cowboy cookies” using her daughter’s recipe.
Paige, who has been a member of the Ladies Auxiliary since 1996, is the chaplain, kitchen chairwoman and kitchen manager at VFW Post 1512.
“I want them to have homemade cookies,” Paige said. “I would rather have homemade cookies than store-bought cookies myself. It doesn’t take that much time.”
Flinn began coordinating the care package program not long after Sept. 11, she said.
Every few months, the Ladies Auxiliary spends $600-$700 to buy food and toiletries for 30-40 boxes. They often try to coordinate the packages around major U.S. holidays.
“They need support from us,” Paige said. “They need to know that we support them and everything they’re doing to keep our country free.”
Food packages include lunch packs and snacks, and toiletry packages include everyday items such as shampoo and toothpaste. In addition to dozens of homemade cookies, the recipients will also receive boxes of Girl Scout cookies. The boxes will be shipped this week.
“It makes it easier on the troops when they’re deployed,” said Michael Foster, quartermaster and canteen manager at VFW Post 1512. “It keeps the morale up for the troops.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars is the nonprofit service organization for United States military veterans and their families. VFW Post 1512 is run entirely by volunteers.
“When I came here, I saw that they needed help, so I started slowly getting involved,” said Lulu Beach, who has been a member of the Ladies Auxiliary for about two years. “I feel like I make a difference. I get to meet a lot of the older gentleman and a lot of the older ladies who have served and have nowhere to go. Some of them don’t have any family.”
VFW Post 1512 supports servicemen and women, as well as the greater community, with a variety of other programs in addition to care packages.
“Our focus is ensuring our veteran’s health and welfare and their widows and orphans are taken care of,” Foster said. “But not only do we provide services to our veterans, we also have community activities. We try to be as active as we can within the community.”
The nonprofit organizes fundraisers to raise money for various agencies and programs. Among these are the Fisher House Foundation, an organization that donates homes for military family members on the grounds of military and VA medical centers, and Snowball Express, an organization that is comparable to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but for children of deceased military personnel.
“The Auxiliary has programs that we do to help support our community and our veterans,” Flinn said. “When we raise money, that money is sent to the several programs that we work with.”
VFW Post 1512 also offers dinners, music nights and karaoke nights each week that are open to the public. Any funds raised benefit the post’s various programs.
“We are out there helping the community,” Beach said.
VFW Post 1512 was established in 1927, and the Ladies Auxiliary was formed soon after. It is the largest and oldest post in San Diego County.
Community members are encouraged to donate money, as well as supplies, for the care package program and other programs VFW Post 1512 is affiliated with.
For more information, visit www.vfwpost1512.org.