Donations, volunteers help complete 15th Jerky for Troops

Fred Turk, of Decatur, helps stuff packages during the 15th Jerky for the Troops on Monday afternoon at CK’s Place, south of Big Rapids. Along with 700 pounds of jerky snacks, personal items like toothpaste, baby wipes and books were packed in boxes to be shipped to service members around the world. (Pioneer photos/Brandon Fountain)

BIG RAPIDS — Like a well-tuned assembly line, volunteers started packing U.S. Postal Service boxes.

Destined to be delivered into the hands of U.S. service members around the world, the boxes were stuffed with snacks and personal items as part of the 15th Jerky for Troops event Monday afternoon at CK’s Place.

“Each box has a little taste of home,” said Colin Kelly, event organizer, as he showcased some of the jerky products being sent overseas.

Dozens and dozens of U.S. Postal Service boxes were packed during Monday’s Jerky for Troops event at CK’s Place, south of Big Rapids. The annual event helps serve as a morale booster to local service members and their comrades who are stationed throughout the world.

More than two dozen volunteers — from as far away as Decatur, Grand Rapids and Cadillac and as local as Big Rapids — showed up to CK’s Place to help fill boxes, write out addresses and carry items.

“It’s the biggest turnout ever,” Kelly said, as he had several people stop by and drop off additional donations of food and postage.

Fred Turk, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6248 in Decatur, arrived to help pack boxes as part of the Buddy to Buddy program.

“We wanted to come up and help,” he said, adding the post had donated $200 to help with postage for the packages. “We wanted to help as much as we could. It probably won’t go far, but every bit helps.”

From packs of cards to body wash and sunscreen to snacks, the volunteers quickly worked to get as many boxes as they could get filled with items, including 700 pounds of jerky snacks.

“The packages are going to be sent to soldiers and others at bases here in the U.S., and others who are overseas,” Kelly said.

Kelly noted volunteers from the Big Rapids post office helped with getting mailing and customs labels squared away, saving time when the packages were taken to the post office later Monday afternoon.

“They simplified the process a lot this time,” he said.

Special visitors to Monday’s event included veterans from the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, who helped pack and sort through the packages to be sent off.

For their efforts, Kelly sent dozens of packages of jerky home with them, as he recently donated nearly 300 pounds of snacks to the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette.

Becky Smit, recreational therapist for the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, said the residents will really enjoy the jerky.

“They will have it for snacks and during activities,” she said, as the veteran residents had helped pack several boxes Monday afternoon and happily accepted donated jerky snacks. “They’ll really like it.”

Monday’s Jerky for Troops had the largest turnout of volunteers in the 15-year history of the annual event, which is aimed at providing those who serve throughout the world a package with snacks and personal care items from home.

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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