Overseas soldiers get a taste of the Carnival season - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Overseas soldiers get a taste of the Carnival season

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) -

People from around the globe travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but many members of the military could not come even if they wanted to. A taste of the city's Carnival season is on the way to them.

A woman slathers rich white icing on a circular pastry that soon will have all the makings of a king cake. Randazzo's Camelia City Bakery in Slidell was the spot where dozens of king cakes are being specially designed for troops overseas.

“This year we are sending 200 red, white and blue king cakes, which is less than last year. [It] is a good thing because we have less people over there,” said Colleen Smith, of the group Operation We Care.

Big hearts are embedded in the process.

"I do it for all those who serve," said volunteer Teresita Mercante.

Mercante has been volunteering since her son enlisted in 2009.

"He's returned with all of his parts, thank God, and he is now a civilian. We're so proud of his service,” she said.

With precise team work, volunteers both young and old packaged up the cakes. Some know firsthand the ways of war and the value of people showing that they care.

"One of the most important things - I was in the service myself - one of the most important things is mail call that everybody looks forward to it, and if you get a package along with mail, it's great,” said Joe Ogden, a volunteer with Operation We Care.

Since 2003 when the non-profit organization was founded, more than 24,000 care packages have been sent from this area and more than $250,000 has been spent on postage alone.

"We're thankful for the sacrifice that they are making for us every single day and the sacrifices that they make once they come home, because they come home changed, and they're never the same,” Smith said.

Postal workers say it's a joy to be involved.

"It's the Postal Service's mission to keep Americans in touch with Americans, I can think of no better way to do it than this,” said Slidell Postmaster Ray Phelan.

And before long, the gifts will arrive in the conflict zone.

"Every package that goes over there brings an enormous amount of morale booster to our troops, and it means so much to them. They send us emails every month telling us how grateful they are,” said Smith.

Operation We Care collects funds and items to make monthly shipments of care packages to the military.

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