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Midland Park

Supporting the Troops, One Box at a Time

11/11/2013 09:43AM ● By Rebecca K. Abma

Members of AL Post 57 preparing care packages for the troops. Left to Right: Alex Peterson, Danielle Peterson, Chris Woolbert, Steve Borelli, Steve Toms, Jan Toms, Bud Eureka. Photo courtesy of Steve Toms.

The phone woke Steve Toms in the middle of the night. The Commander of the Sons of American Legion Post 57 and program coordinator of the One Box, One Soldier was surprised at the voice on the other end: Marine Steve Borelli called to thank Toms for the care package that may have saved his life.

At the time, Borelli, of Waldwick, was under mortar fire for more than a month in Botwah. His unit had lost several men and the supply lines were cut off. Morale was low and supplies were even lower.  They were out of just about everything imaginable or important when the One Box, One Soldier care packages were dropped in.

The boxes, filled with small comforts from home, contained AA batteries, which were desperately needed to power night vision goggles. That night, they were able to go out on a successful mission to take out several enemy combatants. As soon as Borelli arrived back in the states, he called Toms to thank him.

The One Box, One Soldier campaign of AL Post 57 began in memory of Waldwick resident Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Bayji, Iraq on Dec. 4, 2007. His mother, June Augusta, found a letter in his wallet from a care package he received from a stranger and was touched to realize the impact of a stranger’s act of kindness for her son. She was prompted to pay it forward.

The initial goal was to send 100 care boxes to men and women serving in the US Armed Services around the world. To date, more than 2,200 boxes have been sent Post Squadron Commander Steve Toms told Midland Park Press.

“It has been great therapy for her,” noted Toms, who along his with wife, Jan, are frequently found outside of the A&P and other local stores collecting funds and items to send to the troops.

Family and friends of Staff Sgt. Joseph D’Augustine have also joined the effort. The 29-year-old Waldwick resident was killed in action on March 27, 2012 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The four friends who were with him the day he died were unscathed in the fight and recently redeployed, Toms noted. They will be receiving care packages to boost morale.

One Box, One Soldier has also teamed up with the Adopt-A-Soldier Campaign, which is part of the USO.

Donations can be dropped off at the Walter Nightengale Post 57, 46 North Franklin Ave. in Waldwick after 5 pm on weekdays or 1pm on weekends inside the door labeled "The Hut," or contact Jan Toms or Steve Toms at 201-519-8269 or teamtoms@verizon.net.

Halloween candy is welcome. Monetary donations to support the purchase of Military Phone Cards and other special request items are also welcome and 100% of donations go directly to support the program. Checks should be made payable to “American Legion Post 57″ note “One Box-One Soldier” in the memo line.

The following items are sought. No glass containers can be accepted:

Food & Drinks

Iced tea Mix, Gatorade mix, tea bags, coffee packets, tuna packed in foil (no cans), crackers, cheese crackers; Slim Jims (beef only), Beef Jerky, Pringles, cookies; peanut butter, jelly or jam (plastic or squeeze jars only), Cup-A-Soup, Hunts Snack-Pack Pudding, cereal, protein bars, gum, candy (Individually wrapped), Life Savers, Tic-Tacs, Fruit Roll-ups, licorice and nuts

Toiletries

Mouth wash, Q-Tips, eye drops, moist wipes, tissues, Chap Stick, Gold Bond Green Dot Foot Powder, non aerosol shaving cream, disposable razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, soap, hand creams and feminine care products

Other Items

AA batteries, envelopes, paper, pens, non aerosol bug spray, puzzles and crossword books, Holiday Cards for them to send home during the holiday season. Foot warmers and hand warmers.

For more information, visit the One Box, One Soldier webpage.
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