It's amazing what a small community can accomplish.
Over the last few months, Joan and John Kennedy of Summit Hill, have been asking residents of Carbon County and the surrounding areas for their help in gathering enough supplies to fill 1,000 care packages that will be sent to 800 U.S. Marines, and 200 Navy Sailors of the 2nd Battalion/2nd Marines, stationed in Afghanistan. They are the parents of Lance Cpl. John Kennedy Jr., a local Marine who is currently serving his second deployment in Afghanistan.
The group the Kennedys belong to, which is made up of the military men and women's family members from across the country, asked for items such as hand-knitted helmet liners, chap-stick, disposable razors, baby wipes in soft containers, Colgate Wisp disposable toothbrushes, and monetary donations to cover the cost of shipping the packages.
The reason for the campaign is to bring holiday cheer to the Marines and Sailors during their time away from home.
"They will be a world away from home and far from everyday necessities during the holidays," Joan said previously. "It is our hope to bring comfort, smiles and a bit of home to them."
To date, Joan said there has been overwhelming support for the Christmas package campaign in the area.
They have collected 80 helmet liners through the help of kind-hearted area knitters and expect to receive another 20 by the time their deadline of Nov. 4 rolls around. These will be added to the liners other group members have been collecting.
If the group does not get the 1,000 liners it needs, the Citizen Support for America's Military program, a volunteer-based program out of Illinois that supports the U.S. Military year-round, has offered to donate the rest.
Joan added that one knitter alone made 24 liners and is still working on more. Another knitter decided to help because she learned how to knit through the Red Cross when she was in high school because they were knitting items for the troops serving in World War II.
The Kennedys have also collected over $1,000 from area organizations to help cover the postage costs, which is expected to be over $1,200; and purchase the remaining items that are needed to fill the packages.
On Monday afternoon, Joan traveled to the Lehighton Hi Rise to meet with the area craft club, which donated some of the proceeds of the craft items they make and sell.
During the presentation, the women explained how this campaign touched their hearts, and they felt they wanted to contribute in some way.
At first, the club wanted to try to knit the helmet liners, but time constraints didn't allow them to start the project. So in its place, they gave a donation to help cover some expenses.
Most of the women in the group all have a military background, whether it be that their husbands or sons served in the military or they served as nurses during war time.
Other area organizations that also contributed monetary donations include area churches, Pencor, and the Black Diamond Parrot Head Club; as well as many individuals.
On Thursday and Friday, Joan, who is a teacher at the Panther Valley High School, also picked up items that the Panther Valley Elementary and Middle schools collected as a schoolwide project. The students also made Christmas cards to send to the troops.
"It's been an amazing outpouring from individuals collecting items and monetary donations," Joan said of the support everyone has given the group. "Several times a week we have received checks in the mail from people we know and perfect strangers. Thank you to everyone who helped us."
Joan said that Roxanne Robertson, the project coordinator, who lives in the Midwest, was amazed by the support of the residents of the community.
"They (the group) continually comment on how we live in such an awesome community with so many caring and giving people," she said. "I certainly agree and am very honored to live among such awesome people."
The deadline for collection of donations is Nov. 4 because the Kennedys need to mail everything to Robertson, who will then assemble all care packages and mail them to Afghanistan.
Anyone who wishes to give a monetary donation before the deadline can do so by contacting the Kennedys at (570) 645-5709 or drop it off at their home at 12 E. Walter St., Summit Hill. Checks should be made payable to Roxanne Robertson.
This is the second time the Kennedys have partnered with families from across the United States to support their son's battalion.
Last year, the group sent hundreds of care packages to the Marines serving in Iraq.