Boxes From Home

In the spring of 2007, a parishioner of St. James, Mrs. Allison Cioffi-Brown, approached the Rector, Reverend Frank Goss, with the idea of sending “Boxes from Home” to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Father Goss whole-heartedly endorsed the idea and asked another parishioner, Mrs. Jean Ridner, to assist in the effort. When Mrs. Brown moved away from the Parish in 2008, MaryAnn Brugger joined Jean Ridner in performing this labor of love.

The “goodies from home” contained in the boxes, and the postage for mailing the boxes, are obtained through donations provided by the organizers and parishioners of St. James. As of the beginning of the Year 2011, approximately 300 boxes (normally 12”x12”x12”, or 10”x10’x10” in size) had been sent to U.S. Service Members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Generally, the boxes include homemade cookies, treats, books, DVDs, toiletries, flip-flops, and other small items of interest to the military forces who are deployed in hostile areas, frequently at Forward Operating Bases or Field Medical Treatment Facilities. The names of service members are obtained not only from parishioners, and friends, but also from previous recipients of the boxes who are eager to have their replacements benefit from the St. James “Boxes from Home” program.

The gratitude of the forces is clearly evident from the Thank You notes received from the recipients:

  • “Thank you so much for your most recent donation of homemade cookies, snacks and toiletries for our troops. As our ill and wounded are moving through the aero-medical system on their way to healing, receiving these kind donations helps give them a “taste of home” and aids significantly in the healing process.”
  • “Thank you and St. James for such wonderful “Care Packages.” All of them were so great – it was like Christmas in July! Your support, devotion, and loyalty will forever be remembered.”
  • “Thanks so much for thinking of me! I received your package the day before Thanksgiving and everyone got a taste of those delicious cookies.”
  • “On behalf of everyone you have touched with your generous packages thank you. It has been a long time since I was an altar boy at midnight mass there and it is good to know the church still has the closeness I remember. You wouldn’t believe how a simple act of kindness is appreciated by those in harm’s way. It may not seem like much, but the simple things can make a big impact. Whether it is a bottle of shampoo someone can use after a three day mission, or a book that allows them to escape their job during a few hours of peace, your contributions are greatly appreciated.”
  • “Happy New Year! Thanks so much for your support of our soldiers. Your Care Packages truly help in brightening the spirits of our Soldiers. Please pass on my thanks to the members of St. James Episcopal and let them know that their military ministry makes a difference. As I head back to the States – I know my successor would love to be a contact for you here.” (From an Army Chaplain)

St. James Church is also a proud recipient of a United States Flag, presented to the Parish by Captain Stephen P. Ward (the above referenced former altar boy), on behalf of Delta Company, in thanksgiving for the many boxes of treats, cheerful remembrances and practical items sent to his unit while they were deployed in Afghanistan. Included with the flag was the following citation:

“This Flag of the United States of America, which flew proudly over FireBase Cobra located in the Uruzgon Province of Afghanistan on September 11th, 2007,is presented to St. James Parish Bradley Beach by Delta Company, 97th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), then deployed at FireBase Cobra in support of theCombined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan”

The date chosen, September 11th 2007, was considered by the unit to be a tribute to St. James Church for their support of the Recovery Operations conducted at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the September 11th 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

After almost seven years of operations, the program was temporarily suspended with effect from February 2014. As a reorientation of the church’s Outreach Program, parishioners are encouraged to continue to contribute children’s books for donation to the USO for distribution to deploying troops. The need is for new books for children aged three to twelve years. Under the USO Concept, the serviceman or woman selects a book to be taken to a small room at the USO facility where a DVD is made of the parent reading the book to the child. The DVD and the book are then sent to the child so that he or she may follow along while watching the DVD.