Girl Scouts showed their patriotism and generosity at the San Gorgonio Council's four regional service centers in Redlands, Palm Desert, Murrieta and Victorville on March 27.
ICare Packing Parties hosted by the Council were attended by 755 local Girl Scouts and their families.
Diligently coloring a heart on her -Thank-You- card was Lydia, 9, who remembered "meeting some families who got the cookies last year and it felt really rewarding."
The conference rooms where each event took place quickly reached capacity. Energy and excitement filled the air. Above the chatter of Council members, girls, parents and volunteers played the patriotic melody of Lee Greenwood's Proud To Be An American.
Girl Scouts, helped by a Boy Scout or two, eagerly wrote cards, made new friends, and lovingly packed ICare boxes filled with Girl Scout cookies, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other personal necessities.
Citali, 12, submitting the ICare box she'd personally made, said, "I like sending boxes out because the troops do so much for us and we just want to thank them."
A photo presentation of last year's ICare mission played on a large projection screen in the background. Attendees could watch the video and be reminded of the accomplishments of previous years, adding fuel to their all-American work ethic.
Girls of all ages participated and showed their support.
Thousands of Girl Scout cookie boxes were labeled with personalized stickers, hand-drawn by the girls, expressing sentiments such as "with love" and "thank you" in both English and Spanish.
Kiera, a plucky 13-year old, told us, "It helps many soldiers and it cheers them up because they are away from their families."
Girl Scout mom Monica Tentman had to work that evening, but her daughter was able to attend the event. She later wrote, on the San Gorgonio Council's Facebook wall, "Thank you for hosting such an awesome event! My daughter had a great time and I love the fact that this was very 'hands on' and the ICare program became tangible for her."
Having a closer relationship with our nation's heroes is exactly why each girl hand-writes cards and packs boxes. In addition to the care packages, girls signed their names and placed handprints on banners for the troops.
This year the amazing residents of Riverside and San Bernardino counties donated 147,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
"In spite of the economic climate, it warms my heart to see such a charitable spirit coming from our girls and the residents of our Council area," said Michael Wyatt, a member of the San Gorgonio Council product sales team and himself an honorary adult member of Girl Scouts.
The ICare program demonstrates the power of community support and all it can offer to our nation's military.
Of the almost 150,000 boxes donated, Operation Gratitude will receive 77,000 boxes, USO will receive 27,000 and another 30,000 will be delivered to regional ICare partners such as the Ronald McDonald House, Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army.
Elizabeth Locke-Thomas, Council VP of Product Sales, noted that, "It is the good deeds we do, standing side by side, making the world a better place, that makes me proud to be a Girl Scout."
Although many troops overseas will soon enjoy a sweet taste of home, much of the evening's focus fell on the families and friends of military personnel.
Kristin Freiberg, whose husband is deployed with the US Navy, attended the event with their daughter, Breanna, a Girl Scout for 3.5 years. They also have two sons.
Breanna said, "It was so much fun to make the banner with the hand prints!"
Her mom, Kristin, added, "The most touching part of the event was for us to be able to get our hands in there and write the cards and personally place the labels. We absolutely had the best time."
Lt. Shane Freiberg has been member of the military for 18 years and is enjoying his first deployment at home.
He gives moral and spiritual support to sailors based out of nearby San Diego and can be assigned anywhere from one to five ships. He knew the ICare program would be the perfect morale booster.
"It was such a moving thing," said Kristin, "because we know how much this is really going to mean to the people who are serving."
The average age of a sailor is only 18 or 19 years old; many are deployed far from home with little or no contact from families. Being uprooted is difficult and " although people show them support, they don't always understand what that's like," she said.
Kristin elaborated, "When they get a package and open it and know someone cares about them, it just means everything. To have that feeling of home."
Some 300 ICare boxes were packed for Lt. Freiberg's ship, but only he and the Captain know about them. The rest of the crew are in for a big surprise in the coming weeks.
There are many reasons to be proud of our nation's brave servicewomen and men, so the 950 volunteers that helped pack the ICare boxes certainly have a reason to be proud of themselves.
We asked some Girl Scouts what they would say if they met a soldier in person.
Sasha, 7, said, "I would say we really appreciate you and we're happy that you're keeping us safe."
"And - thank you - for saving our country and God bless," added Maiah, 10, sealing her ICare Package with tender loving care.
Girl Scouts of San Gorgonio builds girls of courage, confidence and character who help make the world a better place. To find out how you can get involved with Girl Scouts, call 1-800-400-GIRL (4475) or visit us online at the www.girlscoutssangorgonio.org.
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