A simple gesture from a group of ladies at St. Paul’s Episcopal church can mean all the world to a soldier who is stationed in a foreign country.

Four times a year the ladies of the church along with help from the Theta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international teacher’s society, send about 25 packages to military personnel stationed in countries all over the world and especially those in places such as Afghanistan or Iraq.

They depend on donations of money and the items requested by the soldiers to be able to fill the boxes and pay the required postage. Each box costs about $13 in postage fees to send.

“One of our largest expenses is the shipping costs,” said Shirley Marshall, program organizer.

The most requested items to be put inside each box includes jerky, boot and ankle socks,  lip balm, body lotion, sunscreen, wipes, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other toiletries. Soldiers wanting to take a break after working hard request puzzle books, magazines and hand held games. In addition, they want snacks such as nuts, health bars, drink mixes and jerky. But, no pork products are allowed. Warm hats and blankets are especially needed for the cold winter months.

The ladies began the outreach program in 2006.

“We thought it would last a year or two, but six years later we are still sending our support and appreciation to our troops,” Marshall said.

Marshall fondly tells of an occasion where 16 U.S. Navy  Seabees came to the church on a Sunday morning to show their support and appreciation for the boxes they received. The Seabees had just returned from Iraq and were in Houston. They appeared at the church in full uniform to thank the women. The ladies served a special lunch and had the chance to talk to each person and get to know them personally.

“They told us how much the packages meant and helped with the morale of the troops,” Marshall said. “This gave us the drive to keep the project going as long as needed.”

The group is looking to expand their list of local service personnel wanting a box. They can be a person from the Orange area or a relative of someone from this location. To submit their name, a full address is necessary.

If someone would like to donate the needed items or make a monetary donation, it will be gladly accepted. In addition, assistance is always needed to fill out custom forms, build boxes, purchase and prepare the items for shipment.  The ladies also need help writing letters which are included in every box. To submit a name, make a donation or volunteer the contact number for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is 409-883-2969. The church address is 1410 W. Park, Orange, Texas, 77630.

“Any help would be greatly appreciated,” Marshall added.

Photo: The ladies of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Theta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma prepare boxes to be sent to military personnel serving in other countries. From left to right, Janet Sadler, Shirley Marshall, Arlene Howland, Susie Ridel, Rosie Hurst and Sue Rathburn.