Earlier this summer, 24 boxes of snacks and toiletries were sent to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Ladies Auxiliary of .
Diane Krisciunas, president of the group, said 20 to 25 boxes are mailed each month. The soldiers, including two females, are from Lemont or have family members who live in Lemont.
“We try to keep it local,” Krisciunas said.
The VFW post pays for postage, nearly $12 each for a large box.
Soldiers have come back or written letters to say how grateful they are, Krisciunas said.
“We don’t know how much it means to them. It’s heartwarming,” she said.
Particularly popular are hand sanitizers and baby wipes because “it’s a really dirty place to be,” Krisciunas said.
Bill Ward, commander of VFW 5819, added hand lotion to the list. The desert heat and dry air make for rough hands and skin, he said. Certain candies, such as M&Ms, and batteries are also popular with soldiers.
Besides sending boxes overseas, the auxiliary often brings items to the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Wheaton. There, men are enrolled in classes and helped with resumes “to get them back on their feet," Krisciunas said.
“They have to keep a clean lifestyle” to be eligible for shelter services, Krisciunas said.
The auxiliary had a large supply of items for women left over after sending two boxes to female soldiers in June. The items were taken to a Wheaton shelter for victims of domestic abuse.
“They said they have a lot of children come in, so they can always use things,” Krisciunas said.
Post and auxiliary members go to Hines VA Hospital, near Maywood, twice a year.
“In just one visit, we gave out 120 gift bags, and we're a small group,” Krisciunas said of the auxiliary, which has about 60 members.
The auxiliary is open to new members. A requirement to join is having a close family member, such as a father, mother or husband, who served in a war zone during any war or conflict.
The group meets at 7 p.m. the second Monday of the month at the Lemont VFW post, 15780 New Ave. Membership is $24 the first year and $18 thereafter.
Residents who have donations for the soldier packages can bring them to the post.