SLIDELL, La. (WVUE) - At a Slidell church, a small army of volunteers carries out a patriotic mission.
The Slidell Ladies for Liberty include dozens of women, with a few guys sprinkled into the mix, whose support for U.S. soldiers deployed overseas is unwavering. Among the volunteers is Donna Maeder, who gathers with the group every month on what they call “packing day,” to make sure local service members know their sacrifices do not go unnoticed.
“It’s important because they’re giving up their family life so that we don’t have to,” Maeder said.
Once a month on packing day, they work diligently to put together three boxes for every soldier on their list. One box is full of toiletries, and two boxes are filled with snacks -- like nuts, potato chips, tuna fish, homemade cookies and peanut butter.
On this day, the care packages were being made for 24 soldiers stationed in the Middle East. Inside the packages are letters from the organization to let them know who the packages are from. Some months there are as many as 80 service members on their list.
“We have sent in the neighborhood of 25,000 boxes since 2007,” Maeder said.
Maeder has been a part of the organization for the past six years and is now in charge of the edibles. Everything the group sends to soldiers is donated by the community, but their largest single expense is shipping costs.
“Those donations are important as well because we don’t get postage for free,” Maeder said.
While this packing operation is impressive, there’s a lot more to it. The Slidell Ladies for Liberty does fundraisers throughout the year, according to another volunteer, Marion McCoy.
“A lot of phone calls, a lot of paperwork, gathering donations, it’s pretty involved,” McCoy said.
For McCoy, like so many others here, the mission is personal.
“My dad was a POW in Japan for 3 and a half years, so I grew up in a military family. My husband was military, my sons too. So I just thought it was a great cause,” she said.
And, Maeder said the reward just keeps getting bigger.
“We like to ship a lot of things, but we know when it gets where it’s going, it’s being shared with everyone else,” Maeder said. “We know this because we get thank you notes from people we didn’t even mail things to.”
They document those moments through social media.
“Finally, this last year, they’ve been sending us pictures on Facebook when they open their boxes,” McCoy said. “And that was best of all, because we never knew what it was like when they opened their boxes.”
For soldiers like David Bailee, who recently returned home from active duty, a simple package means so much more. He stopped by on packing day to say thank you to the Ladies for Liberty for sending love from their community to soldiers around the world.
“We don’t want them to be forgotten,” Maeder said. “They are over there in a dangerous place. The least we can do is send them some Slidell love.”
Soldiers can enroll themselves, or family members can enroll them to receive care packages. The only requirement is that the service members have some sort of connection to Slidell.
To learn more about their mission or how to donate, you can log on to www.slidellladiesforliberty.org