Volunteers come together at GE Energy for troop packages
The assembly line looked a little different at the GE Energy plant in Minden on Thursday afternoon. There were no cutting-edge products or high-tech machines, just a line of tables, 700 cardboard boxes, loads of goodies, and more than 50 volunteers looking to brighten the lives of U.S. troops deployed overseas.
“We did about 200 boxes last year and decided to more than triple it this year,” said GE spokesperson Lee Bonner. “The employees just stepped up to the challenge.”
It’s the seventh year GE Energy has sent care packages to U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We first started around the same time the war started,” explained GE technology manager Kris Wickstead, this year’s project leader. “We had two employees who were veterans and wanted to give the troops something, because they knew what it felt like.”
Wickstead said Afghanistan is turning into one of the longest U.S. wars in history, and that soldiers fighting need continued support.
“We just wanted to pull back together again and keep the packages going,” he said.
Bonner said this year, GE Energy committed to sending packages to every Nevada National Guard soldier in the Middle East, 500 in Afghanistan and 200 in Iraq and Kuwait.
“The National Guard makes up about 16 percent of our people in Iraq,” he said.
Snacks, cards and deodorant were just a few of the thousands of items neatly packed and readied for shipment. Other items included CDs, DVDs and books, items not easily available in Afghanistan, Wickstead said.
“They like to watch movies on their laptops,” he said. “Something they always ask for are Ziploc bags because it’s so dusty and dirty over there, even the 2-gallon bags so they can put their laptops inside and keep the keyboards from getting dusty.”
Wickstead said GE Energy would be paying for the cost of shipping, and that GE employees themselves had procured items for about 300 boxes. The rest, he said, were filled by the Blue Star Moms, who obtained donations from Dollar Tree stores in Carson City, Minden and Dayton.
“We have a lot of sons and daughters overseas,” said Sierra Nevada Blue Star Moms member Dorothy Wingard, whose son just returned from Iraq. “We do whatever we can do to help.”
Also helping Thursday were half a dozen Nevada National Guard soldiers from Carson City.
“I believe this really helps,” said Sgt. Jennifer Pantea. “Some people over there don’t have anyone back home.”
“Christmas time is hard on them,” added Miss Nevada USA Julianna Erdesz, who provided some autographed pictures to go along with the packages. “I came down here to give back to the community and support the troops overseas. That the GE employees are giving back as well I think is wonderful.”
Nevada First Lady Dawn Gibbons, dressed in velvet, holiday red, was also assisting with the packages. As an honorary chair of Nevada Volunteers and an honorary member of AmeriCorps, Gibbons said she wanted to encourage volunteerism.
“I’m so proud GE stepped up to the plate,” she said. “They are a shining example of what other companies can be doing.”
For more information about volunteering, visit http://www.nevadavolunteers.org.
The Sierra Nevada Blue Star Moms meet the second Tuesday of the month 6 p.m. at Silver Oaks Golf Course in Carson City. Information, 267-1966 or 246-2499.