Anna Dunlap has been sending care packages to American soldiers for over a decade. Then she found a way to make even more of a difference with AnySoldier.com. The 501(c)(3) charity provides for opportunities to send care packages to soldiers in any military branch.
A young adult librarian at the Glen Cove Library, Dunlap was always looking for ways to encourage her young patrons to learn about the world around them. She was pleased when she realized that AnySoldier could provide for a great opportunity to teach them about the world outside their hometown.
Dunlap officially brought the idea to the Glen Cove Library in 2006. The teens began writing letters to the soldiers, telling them a little bit about themselves and thanking them for their service. She tries to choose soldiers who are from N.Y., so they already have something in common with the teens.
“It kind of makes the kids think about why they’re doing this and the reason behind it,” said Dunlap. “It shows the kids to look outside themselves and realize that there are other things in the world.”
The library purchases items that are requested by the soldiers, like snacks and clothing. They also send them library items, like books, CDs and movies. Originally, the Friends of the Library paid for the mailing, but now it is funded through private donations. Dunlap said the Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion have been helpful in donating money for shipping.
Once the teens are done writing their letters, they pack up the items and take a trip next door to the post office to send off the packages.
During the program’s first year, the library sent packages to Sgt. Travis Harrant who was stationed in Iraq with the Tenth Mountain Division. He was in charge of 300 other soldiers. They mailed him packages until November 2007. After many correspondences, Harrant’s commanding officer sent a plaque to the library along with a letter thanking the teens and Dunlap for “keeping up the morale.”
Dunlap says it’s always nice when the soldiers respond. The library values the photos, letters and thank-you notes from the various soldiers they have donated to over the past 10 years.
In addition to writing letters, the library brings in veterans to thank them personally for their service. They in turn talk to the kids, and tell them stories of their experiences in the service.
Glen Cove’s Director of Veteran Services Anthony Jimenez said he was the recipient of gifts when he was serving in Vietnam. “The most unusual one I ever got was a case of yo-yos,” he said. “Everybody loved them.”
He said usually family members send the care packages, while strangers send the more entertaining items. “We got to remember the men and women that are sacrificing a lot for us,” Jimenez said. “It’s a touch of home when you’re away.”
After so many years, Dunlap remains committed. “I continue to do it because I feel that it’s worthwhile and it’s not a difficult thing to do,” said Dunlap, who is now the head of youth services at the library. “It’s more than I could do myself, so I’m glad the library is supporting this.”
The next care package send-off is Saturday, Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. For more information visit www.glencovelibrary.org/any-soldier-volunteer-program or to send your own care package visit www.anysoldier.com.