With the help of their congregation, Bethlehem Santa Clarita Valley church created 50 care packages for deployed troops during the holidays.
On Wednesday, the church held a care package building event to help the nonprofit organization Prayer Angels for the Military, making cards, writing letters and preparing care packages for deployed troops.
Organizer and Bethlehem SCV office manager Robyn Sheets said, “They [Prayer Angels] send boxes out to local people who are deployed, and they take care of our veterans with baskets throughout the year.”
The packages included hygienic products such as tissues, eye drops, Ibuprofen, lip balm, razors, body wipes, mouth wash and body wash soap. Also, cards of encouragement were included in every package.
Food items such as trail mix, beef jerky, oatmeal and other snack items were included. Additionally, playing cards, crossword puzzles and sudoku books were added to the care packages.
Children also contributed to the care packages by creating greeting cards, decorating coloring pages, and placing stickers in the boxes. Some of the children also decorated the inside of the care packages.
“When they get notes and coloring pages from kids, and that just brightens their day when they are the opening those boxes and getting that encouragement,” Sheets said.
More than 60 people were in attendance, helping organize, set up and decorate the boxes for the troops.
Suzon Gerstel, president of Prayer Angels for the Military, identifies local troops on deployment, verifies their home base and creates a list of care packages for the troops, according to Sheets.
In the past, the church has collected donations for Prayer Angels, but this is the first year of organizing the event and creating care packages for the troops.
“Everybody has donated more than we had asked for,” Sheets said. “People donated funds to help with shipping, because each box cost $15.50 to mail out a flat rate box.”
The church has additional items they will be donating to Prayer Angels because the nonprofit also mails out packages in January and closer to Valentine’s Day, according to Sheets.
Preparation began months ago with informing the congregation and preschool parents about the collection needs and announcing the day for packing the care packages.
Sheets is passionate about this organization because of her past volunteering history and coming from a family with a long history of military service in various branches.
“This is my passion,” Sheets said. “Thankfully, the church decided that they would take on prayer angels as our serving event this time.”
Pastor Joe Beran said the church continually looks for opportunities to serve the community, and a church member suggested Prayer Angels because of its local background.
Beran saw the event as an opportunity to bring the community together to support the deployed troops.
“I thought, what’s a way that we could show some love and support for those who are serving our country?” Beran said. “Also, we have a number of people that are part of our congregation who have served in the military and a few that are serving right now.”
Giving examples of family members who served or church members in deployment is an additional way to create understanding for children, according to Beran.
Rina May Rhoten is a parent of three children involved with the school and church. She chose to volunteer because the church does excellent work with the community and provided an excellent giving service opportunity during the holiday.
Additionally, Rhoten said she has family in the military and knows what it is to have a loved one deployed. She explains to her children that the packages go to people like their uncle who can’t be with their family but appreciate the gifts.
“It’s the thought that counts and giving is so much better than receiving,” Rhoten said.