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Blue Star sendoff given to 35 holiday cheer packages

Park Rapids Blue Star Mothers members, along with family and friends, gathered Tuesday to package gift boxes for area soldiers serving overseas. Front row, from left, Tom Caracio, Dawn Caracio, Santa (Dick Rutherford), Becky Holmen, Connie Carmichael, Marie Flora, Deb Korsgaden, Cheryl Gartner, Barb Pachel, Judy Harsha and Rodger Harsha. Back row, from left, Russ Carmichael, Richard (Bear) Abbot and Linda Olson. Members not pictured are Mae Benjamin, Randi Menten and Lorraine Garbett. (Anna Erickson / En...1 / 2
Donations from the community were instrumental to packing boxes for 35 soldiers for the holidays. Help-ing pack the boxes are Tom Caracio, Dawn Caracio, Rodger Harsha, Linda Olson, Deb Korsgaden and Barb Pachel. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)2 / 2

Families gathered this week to pack boxes of support for soldiers.

The Northwoods Chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc., come together to support each other along with families who have loved ones in the military.

The holiday packages include snacks, socks, spoons and forks, hats and toiletries. They were packed by mothers, fathers and friends.

Connie Carmichael, president of the Northwoods Chapter of Blue Star Mothers, said she was impressed by the donations the group received from the community.

The group launched an effort this fall to expand its list of soldiers. The only way they know about a soldier from the area being deployed is by word of mouth, Carmichael said.

"We have added to our list," she said. "We packed boxes for 35 soldiers."

One of the large donations this year was from the Freedom Riders of Bemidji. The organization donated $7,000 in gift cards for the soldiers. Century Elementary School also donated a significant amount to the project.

Soldiers should receive their packages in time to enjoy the holidays with a piece of home.

"We're really excited; this is what we work all year for," Carmichael said.

Blue Star Mothers has two main fundraisers. One is the Blue Daisy Sale in August and the other is called Boots for Troops, with businesses around the area setting out a soldiers' boot to collect money.

The Northwoods Chapter has a variety of members. Some have children currently deployed and others do not.

Also, many husbands are involved in the group as well. It's becoming a family group rather than just mothers. Friends are also welcome.

Members of the group support each other along with families who have loved ones in the military.

The national organization was formed in 1998. Donna Walsh, the mother of two servicemen, founded the Northwoods Chapter.

Blue Star Mothers display a blue star on a banner for each child in uniform. The stars, typically hung in front windows of their homes, change to gold if a son or daughter dies in military service.

The Blue Star Flags have long been a part of wartime history. They have been hung in the family's windows of service men and women since World War I. These banners first became a way for households to indicate they have family members in service in 1917.

For more information about the Blue Star Mothers, to join or to donate, call Carmichael at 252-0086 or Dawn Caracio at 573-2628. The Blue Star Mother's mailing address is PO Box 734, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561