By Wanda Callagy
The Daily Star
---- — Thanks to a group of local BOCES students, some servicemen and women in Afghanistan will receive homemade cookies and a handwritten letter in each care packages. The recipe for this program includes time management, a handful of manpower and a whole lot of love.
John Butler of Stamford said the local Treat the Troops group is starting its fourth year at the Northern Catskills Occupational Center.
“I heard about the project at a Rotary meeting,” Butler said. “I tossed around the idea and went up to NCOC to see if they would be interested. Then I approached CORE Values in Stamford, and they began to contribute the money for the cookies and the parcel fees. We are going into our fourth year, and we send between 12 and 15 boxes a month.”
Jeanette Cran of Hilton Head Island, S.C., began the Treat the Troops program in 1990 after hearing about a soldier that asked for letters and cookies from home. Her friends and co-workers — dubbed her “crumbs” — gathered the ingredients and parcel material from volunteer sources. Since then, Treat The Troops has sent more than 3 million cookies to soldiers.
NCOC BOCES culinary instructor Jake Boyle said he has an enthusiastic group of students this year — attending from 10 nearby schools — interested in culinary arts.
“I think it has to do a lot with people learning how to take better care of themselves, to be a more sustainable culture is a goal,” Boyle said. “By learning to cook, these kids have a say in what they put into their body.”
And Butler and Boyle both agree that there is nothing like that homemade feeling of some cookies and a handwritten letter to brighten a stranger’s day.
One challenge the program faces is keeping track of the troops, who are often on the move, Butler said. But after receiving a letter from a chaplain, attesting to how much the troops appreciate the packages, Butler said, the small committee in charge of Treat the Troops will make sure the packages reach their intended recipients.
“It is such a small thing, but I think it means a lot to them,” Butler said.
Butler also keeps a file of notes and emails received, including which cookies seem to survive the trip the best. The verdict? Oatmeal raisin.
“Yes, with the climate and timing conditions, these cookies hold up the best,” Butler said.
The committee is continuing to gather names and addresses for men and women serving overseas. To add a name to the list, or for more information about Treat the Troops, contact Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ethel Hammond @email@example.com.