Shoreline group provides deployed soldiers with the comforts of home
By Sarah Page Kyrcz of the Shoreline Times | Reprinted with permission.
MADISON — Soldiers deployed overseas often hanker for the creature comforts of home, such as coffee, tea, beef jerky, instant soup, candy, hand sanitizer, soap and magazines.
Through the generosity of one local organization, these items and many more are en route to active troops, who are eagerly awaiting their delivery.
Through the APK Charities Direct Assistance Program, boxes were packed at St. Margaret Church on Thursday, Aug. 1 and delivered to Fort Bragg, N.C. From there, they will be flown overseas.
More than $9,000 worth of goods are earmarked for 18 special forces’ units, with 12 soldiers per unit, deployed in June to Syria, Somalia and Iraq.
“I took pictures and I forwarded them to the soldiers who are deployed, to show them what’s coming, what they can expect, and they’ve expressed their gratitude,” said William Reese, chief warrant officer 2, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Organizers Bob and Helen Keiser-Pedersen, of Madison, are passionate about giving back to military families and soldiers. Helen Keiser-Pedersen’s only son, Army Capt. Andrew Michael Pedersen-Keel, was killed in action on March 11, 2013, in Afghanistan. The 28-year-old was serving as the commander of his special forces detachment.
The couple created the nonprofit organization APK Charities to support active, retired, wounded and fallen warriors and their families through financial aid and material assistance to charitable organizations and causes.
Money to support APK Charities is raised during the APK 5K Run/Ruck/Walk and Kids Fun Run. This year’s race is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Guilford Fair Grounds. For more information, visit apkcharities.org/events/.
This Gold Star Mom said she knows that her son is always at her side and would be supportive of APK Charities.
“He’d have it no other way,” she said. “This guy was soldier, top to bottom. He just loved being a professional soldier.”
Additional money and manpower to pack the most recent boxes was supplied by Knights of Columbus Sacred Heart Council Operation American Soldier.
“We’ve done pack and ship for so many years, just with our Operation American Soldier drives, that we kind of know the routine, how to sort things out and how to pack and we had boxes that Bob could use,” said Michael Piccione, chairperson for Operation American Soldier since 2009.
Once the packages arrived in Fort Bragg, N.C., Reese arranged for their delivery overseas. They will travel on the same flight overseas with some units being deployed shortly.
Reese added that APK Charities has sent packages to this group before.
“Each time, it’s been at a time where the soldiers have little access to items that they have at home. … It’s the small little things to remind them of home. Bob and Helen were able to provide that for them,” he said. “They are appreciative.”
While the majority of the items were purchased through the generosity of APK Charities, with additional monetary support from the Knights, there were some donations. Madison Resident Stephanie Lesnik, the Keisers’ neighbor, found an innovative way to be involved with the project.
“They continue to do so much for our troops, our veterans, the veterans’ families,” Lesnik said. “Bob was saying we have the Keurigs, but not the K-cups to go with them. I said, ‘Just put it on Facebook and see what people do.’ ”
This is exactly what Lesnik did, and the K-cups starting arriving at her doorstep.
“The next day we had 24 boxes,” she said. “People were amazing and it’s anonymous, I have no idea who they came from.”
Lesnik said the best of people comes out in times like this.
“Everyone wants to help and everyone knows where there is help needed in our world, but a lot of times if you can just simplify and say, ‘This is the small thing we can do,’ ” she said. “It’s just an easy thing to do if you’re just given a specific task.”
Reese stressed that receiving mail from home lifts the soldiers’ morale.
“It’s like a little piece of home, when you’re not able to be at home,” Reese said. “It reminds them of home. Being deployed, there’s nothing better than receiving mail. It may seem simple to you to go grab a bar of soap or some shampoo, but in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, those odd places where you’re deployed, they don’t have any of that, so receiving that in a care package from somebody, whether you know them or not, it just makes you feel special.”
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