This year, employees at Goodwill Industries of Greater Nebraska (Grand Island) are sending gifts to 25 U.S. Marines stationed in Afghanistan.
“A lot of them are on their first tour of duty, and they’re homesick,” said Karrie Custard, director of operations for the Grand Island Goodwill. “The number one thing they want is letters.”
A few years ago, Goodwill employees opted to forgo the office gift exchange in favor of providing gifts for others in need. Since then, more and more Goodwill employees and program participants are getting involved. This year’s decision to send gifts to Marines has become one of the Grand Island Goodwill’s biggest efforts yet to help people outside of the local community.
Employees at various Grand Island Goodwill locations helped give gifts, including employees at the corporate offices in Grand Island, two stores in Grand Island and stores in Lexington, Columbus, Kearney, Hastings, North Platte and Scottsbluff. Program participants in Grand Island and Kearney also participated in this year’s project, Custard said.
In addition to collecting gifts, employees and program participants collected a large assortment of food, books and other items, such as sanitary hand wipes and beef jerky—items that are easy for the Marines to take with them when they are away from the base.
The plans spread by word of mouth to a preschool in Sidney and to a day care in Clay Center. At both locations, children wrote letters and brought in photos to send to the Marines. One enthusiastic participant, corporate office receptionist Kitty Vanderberg, decided to send the Marines pine-tree-shaped (and scented) air fresheners “so they could have the smell of Christmas, too.”