Care packages on way to Iraq |

Care packages on way to Iraq

by Sheila Gardner

A little bit of Nevada Christmas is on its way to the soldiers serving in Kuwait and Iraq with the Nevada National Guard 593rd Transportation Co.

Employees of GE Energy in Minden donated 160 care packages for the soldiers who transport cargo goods to U.S. troops.

On Thursday, volunteers packed up the shoebox-sized plastic boxes full of packaged foods, personal hygiene items, movie DVDs, video games and magazines.

Jo Sprinkle of Carson City, whose 28-year-old son Mark serves with the unit, helped prepare the items. She had no idea which box would be given to her son, but it didn’t matter.

“This is going to be a nice, lovely surprise,” she said. “Their generosity is just inspiring.”

This is the third year GE employees have donated the packages.

The program was started by employees Larry Auchoberry and Mike Davis, both Vietnam veterans.

“I know what it’s like to be away from home for the holidays,” said Auchoberry, a tool designer.

“We got a late start this year, but once it was launched, the response was excellent,” he said.

“There’s a little piece of everything in there,” he said as he looked over the boxes.

Suggested items included salty snacks, plastic bags, peanut butter and jelly, powdered hot and cold drink packs, popcorn and microwaveable foods.

Gender-specific items also were suggested.

Some of the boxes contained homemade Christmas ornaments.

The donor of a gift box for a female soldier included a journal and invited the recipient to write back.

“I have included a journal so you can record your experiences over there. Please let me know if you would like me to pray for you and I will add you to my prayer list,” the note read.

Auchoberry said the response to the gifts has been overwhelming from the soldiers.

“We got tons of letters,” he said. “They all said, ‘Thank you so much.'”

Davis said he wants the soldiers to be remembered.

“We’re doing it for the soldiers, but we’re also doing it so people here remember the troops,” Davis said. “We don’t ever want the soldiers to be forgotten.”

Holly Hayes-Whipple, the company’s volunteer coordinator for 2007, described herself as a “military brat.”

“This means a lot to families as well as showing support,” she said. “There are little bits of love in all those packages.”

Jeff Schnitzer, general manager of GE Energy’s Bently Nevada Asset Condition Monitoring product line and the Minden site leader, served in the Gulf War.

“Packages like these made a real difference and helped us feel a connection to home, especially during the holidays,” he said, “It’s probably one of the hardest times to be away from family and friends.”

Nevada National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka said GE Energy was one of the top companies in Northern Nevada to remember the military.

“They are one of the few who made a point of doing it annually,” Studenicka said. “It’s especially nice that the employees custom-tailored the Christmas boxes.”

The packages were to be shipped Friday.

“It’s going to be close, but they should be there by Christmas,” Studenicka said.