"I do my best to let our soldiers know that we appreciate what they do." - R.D. Honan
Here at Elliot Whittier Insurance our staff really does enjoy pitching in to help with causes, both great and small. We knew that our awesome client, Richard Honan of Honan Sign, had an ongoing project where he gathered supplies and sent them off to our military serving overseas, so we asked if there was anything we could do. Richard said we could help by packing up boxes, and so with our friend Karen Cioffi from JN Phillips Auto Glass, and with some donations in hand we spent some time at his shop doing just that.
We really had such a great time, learning firsthand from a Vietnam veteran such as Richard who with quiet yet passionate storytelling, was able to connect us to those that serve our great country.
Richard, thank you again for giving us the opportunity. We salute you personally for taking your passion and putting it into action in such a meaningful way.
For anyone who wants to read more, these, in his words, are the evolution of how these Packages for the Troops came to be, and below are instructions on how you can help too!
I started this program of supporting our military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan about twelve years ago in mid 2002 with a young girl by the name of Kelly Kneeland. I had seen this young woman grow up and go from kindergarden, grade school and then onto high school with my daughter Christine. Kelly graduated Winthrop High School and then went off to study nursing at Syracuse University. While studying at Syracuse, she became a member of ROTC and was commissioned an Army Lieutenant. When the second Gulf War broke out in Iraq in 2002, she was off to Iraq as part of the initial invasion force.
Being an Army Vietnam Veteran myself, I remembered not only the danger of war, but also the loneliness of being away from home. I took it upon myself to write to her and send her a care package every month for her entire deployment. I sort of adopted her and kept her under my wing until she came home. Kelly was no sooner home than I connected with another soldier , which led to another soldier, to another . . . . . one soldier came home, another one led to two more and so on.
I typically ship 400 - 600 pounds of goods(approx twenty five or thirty boxes) to Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East every month. In the thirteen years that I have been doing this I have shipped over 29,000 pounds of goods. I have to be thankful to all the individuals and groups from Winthrop, Revere and East Boston that donate goods on a regular basis. Postage alone can run over $500.00 a month.
Who are these men and women? They are your father, your brother, your niece, your aunts and uncles. They are Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen. I typically write a letter and send a care package to each of them every month for their entire deployment or until they come home. Right now I have four from Winthrop and the rest are from Quincy, Methuen, Lowell, Texas, Pensacola, Buffalo, New York City, North Dakota and beyond. I have met a few of the soldiers from Winthrop, but the rest I will probably never set eyes on or actually meet. They all have some sort of roots to Winthrop. Like I said, they are your nephews, uncles, aunts and brothers and sisters. I get their names from friends of mine at work, the local chamber of commerce or maybe from my yacht club. I like to think that I can put a smile on their face, a smile in their heart and a smile in their stomach.
I send all kinds of basic items like Mac n' Cheese, black socks, Power Bars, Clift Bars, cans of Speghettios, Chef Boyardee, cookies, peanut butter crackers, fruit cocktail, Hormel Chili, Beef Stew, individual serving packets of Gatorade, KoolAid, Crystal Light(for canteen and bottled water). I also send Girl Scout cookies, Slim Jims, cans of Tuna and jars of mayo, cookies, Snows Clam Chowder, peanut butter and Fluff, little bags of beach sand and shells from Winthrop Beach, little plastic capsules of American soil, toiletries, magazines, newspapers, containers of soil along with containers of soil with little bags of Fenway Park grass seed along with planting instructions.
I have school children from the local Elementary and Middle Schools write letters or short notes and also draw pictures that I put in the care packages. I personally write each of of the Soldiers or Marines a letter each month. I have Girl Scout troops, Civic Groups like the Emblem Club, the Playmakers, the Junior Elks, the Friends of the Belle Isle Marsh, the Ladies Lodge, Religious Education students from Saint Johns Parish and Boy Scout Troops come to my shop and help pack the twenty five to thirty boxes that I ship each month.
Two years ago I casually began collecting collecting excess Halloween candy. Last year I contacted the elementary schools about sending notices home with the students. The schools set up collection boxes in the hallways. I collected over twelve hundred pounds. All of this candy will eventually make it's way to military personnel in Afghanistan, Turkey, Africa and other countries in the Middle East where United States Military are deployed. I'm also sure it will be shared with the Afghan children.
In December, I shipped forty 36" lighted christmas trees. These were shipped out along with other holiday decorations Thanksgiving week and were delivered by the first week of December.
And lastly I collect money to purchase Christmas or Holiday gifts("Toys for Troops") for our Military personnel. L.L. Bean shave kits, iPods, digital cameras, Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots hats. To those soldiers that are married, we send a $400.00 or $500.00 Target or American Express gift card to help with buying children's gifts. This past Christmas I purchased over $14,000.00 worth of presents for military personnel and their families. All of this would not be possible without the tremendous support of the people of Winthrop.
I also produce a monthly one hour TV on local cable, called "Supporting the Troops". I read letters and show photos that I get from the soldiers in the war zones. I interview soldiers when they come home on leave or when they finish their deployment. I also interview parents, wives and girl friends of soldiers. I read lists of items that I need for my monthly care packages, whether it be cans of fruit cocktail, hard candy or Valentines Day cards from school children.
I do my best to to let our soldiers know that we appreciate what they do.
Whatever it takes!!
Richard D. Honan
82nd Airborne Division- Vietnam 1969
For a list of items to donate, Click here. Items can be dropped off at Honan Sign Company, 66 Crest Ave., Winthrop, MA 02152. You may also call 617-846-5972. Monetary donations are also accepted made out to "American Legion Post 146", or for postage to "Postmaster Boston"