LIVINGSTON, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – A group of young children gathered under the tent, markers in hand, and got to work.
They drew colorful animals and shapes, wrote short phrases such as “Thank You” and “We Love You,” and made sure each letter had their handwritten signature at the bottom.
Soon, those packages bearing the names of Livingston Parish children would be shipped across the world — right into the waiting hands of deployed troops from Louisiana looking for a little reminder of life back at home.
BR Soldier Outreach, a non-profit organization based in Baton Rouge, invited children to make cards for troops deployed overseas during the 10th Annual Gumbo Cookoff at the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds on Saturday, Jan. 25.
Set up under a tent near the entrance, children were able to decorate cards in whatever way they saw fit while their parents stood nearby with BR Soldier Outreach representatives, who told them all about this 10-year-old organization.
The organization started as an informal group in 2008, when a group of people met up at a motorcycle dealership to ship care packages to deployed troops. After obtaining non-profit status in July 2017, the group has overseen the gathering, packing, and shipping of thousands of pounds of comfort items to scores of service men and women serving abroad.
The mission of the BR Soldier Outreach Program “is to provide comfort items from home to our deployed men and women around the globe,” according to its website. The group sends care packages four times a year to troops all over the world, Vice President Nan Patin said, with each soldier in the units receiving a goodie bag.
During the Christmas season, BR Soldier Outreach will send units decorations, small trees, lights, and stockings. In February, troops will receive Valentine’s Day cards, candy, and other heartwarming treats.
The care packages can get even more specific: After the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010, the group sent Saints T-shirts to units.
“That was a hit,” Patin said with a laugh.
Patin said the organization has sent more than 10,000 bags going out in the last 10 years, with the items coming solely from donations. In February, care packages have been sent to 100 soldiers serving in Germany and another 25 serving in Qatar.
“Everyone gets a bag with goodies and a personal hygiene bag,” she said. “And anybody can nominate a soldier. We send anything we can. We just try to fill the need.”
BR Soldier Outreach has seven drop-off locations in the Greater Baton Rouge area, including two in Livingston Parish (Holmes Building Materials and Higher Destiny Church, both in Denham Springs).
“We’ll do whatever we can,” Patin said.
For more information on BR Soldier Outreach, visit www.brsoldieroutreach.com.