ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Lehighton Soldiers' Angel support team volunteers include, from left, Kasara McLaughlin, Carla Bowman, Soldiers' Angels Pennsylvania State Leader Rae McLaughlin, bookkeeper Kelly Johnson, Charles "Duke" DelDuca, Lehigh Valley Team Leader Mike Burritt, Dee Burritt and Chad Kurtz.
Volunteer members of the Lehighton Soldiers' Angels Pennsylvania support team recently packed, wrapped and delivered hundreds of care packages to be given and mailed to veterans at various hospitals as well as troops serving overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and abroad.
Many items also went to family members of deceased, injured or serving veterans. Hundreds of items consisting of hygienic items, candy, blankets, quilts, scarves, snacks, games, clothing filled the Soldiers' Angels building located on South First St.
Over the past few months and years, more than 70 volunteers with the Lehighton Angels support team spent many hours organizing, collecting, and preparing donations to be sorted, boxed, mailed and delivered to active duty troops and veterans. Donations were raised and collected at various events, including Lehighton Bike Night, parades and bike runs. Local businesses and support organizations, such as VFW's, American Legions, AMVETS, Operation: Touch of Home and other community, veteran and civil organizations also contributed.
The Lehighton Soldiers' Angels support team has been active in Lehighton and surrounding areas since 1996. Currently, Soldiers' Angels, a volunteer led non-profit group, has over 3,180 registered soldiers in Pennsylvania and also have support teams in many other states and countries around the world.
Soldiers' Angels (National) was started by a mother of two American soldiers, Patti Patton-Bader. Her oldest son, Staff Sergeant Brandon, deployed to Iraq from 2003 to 2004, and her youngest was deployed in 2008.
In the summer of his 2003 deployment, Brandon expressed concern that some soldiers in his unit didn't receive any mail or support from home. Being a loving and caring mother, Patti decided to do something about it.
She quickly contacted a handful of friends and extended family, asking if they would support a soldier or two. Within a few months, Soldiers' Angels went from a mother sending a few extra care packages and letters, to an Internet community with thousands of Angels worldwide. With more and more merchants donating services, money and items for packages, Soldiers' Angels reorganized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2004.
Soldiers' Angels currently supports tens of thousands of American military personnel stationed wherever we raise our nation's flag. In December 2004, an online forum was created to provide coordination for the thousands of Angels helping to meet the needs of our heroes.
Today, hundreds of thousands of volunteers are led by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees as Soldiers' Angels works around the world to address military-related needs ranging from deployed support to wounded care, to remembrance of the fallen and assistance for military families.
Soldiers' Angels Pennsylvania State Leader Rae McLaughlin pointed out the year-round need for support for all the veterans at home, serving, and their families. The Lehighton support team routinely helps in local parades, bike runs, flag lines for veterans KIA, funerals, sound offs, letter writing, escorts, flag details, veteran hospital visits, benefit counseling and many other projects.
In addition to providing support the family members of deceased veterans, they also work together with other veteran support programs, such as the Wounded Warriors Program and local Operation: Touch of Home program.
For more information about the Soldiers' Angels or to help visit the national website at www.soldiersangels.org or call McLaughlin at (610) 751-6186.