Bob Conant and Cathie Claverie-Makeever firmly pressed down on the contents of the boxes, sealed them with thick packing tape and stacked them laboriously up against the wall.
For the care packages in line to be sealed, the fluorescent lights of the Newhall Church of the Nazarene’s basketball court were the last slivers of light the letters, candies and stuffed animals inside would see before being reopened in a foreign land half-a-world away.
Behind these letters stood the Prayer Angels for the Military, a local veteran appreciation group that orchestrated a care package drive at the Church of the Nazarene on Saturday to bring local soldiers stationed around the world a piece of the Santa Clarita Valley.
“We send care packages to the local troops,” said Prayer Angel member Patti Ryan. “Those are all kids from Santa Clarita,” she added, motioning to the wall of boxes.
The Prayer Angels filled these boxes with handwritten holiday letters, candies like Sour Patch Kids and Hershey bars, and various types of potato chips and popcorn.
Conant, Claverie-Makeever and Ryan were among a large group of volunteers to donate their time and efforts to the event.
And for Conant – it was personal.
A Gold Star Parent alongside his wife, Kitty, Conant felt it imperative to be able to give those bravely serving abroad a piece of home.
The Conant family has had three children serve, he said. Their youngest son is currently stationed in Colorado, where he works for the Air Force in satellite intelligence.
Ryan also comes from a family imbued with a ripe military tradition.
“My father was in WWII so I grew up loving and appreciating the military,” she said. “My family members were in every branch of the service and I’d always appreciate what they did. I was very, very grateful.”
The Prayer Angels first channeled this appreciation into action during the Iraq War. Since that time, they have held care package drives, veteran outreach events and have even helped elderly veterans move apartments.
Ryan likened the group’s actions to a ripples on a pond – through their local outreach and dedication, holiday joy will radiate from the Santa Clarita Valley to soldiers across the globe.
“I guess it’s like what they talk about with a drop of water and the rings,” she said.
The care packages created at Saturday’s event will reach troops before the holidays, reminding them that regardless of how many time zones away they are, they matter to Santa Clarita residents.
“You do this little thing, you make a card and it gets to Afghanistan and they’re so appreciative,” Ryan said.
“It means the world to them to get a touch of home, and then when they find out we’re from Santa Clarita it means even more to them,” she added, “because that’s home.”