Nov. 27, 2006

'Minnesota Nice' at the Manor

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Residents and staff at Cokato Manor are sharing their love and talents to help soldiers overseas this holiday season.

Cokato Manor and its residents are participating in the program, “Operation Minnesota Nice”, which adopts soldiers overseas and sends care packages monthly.

The Manor adopted Jeanette Basara from Columbia Heights, who is serving in Iraq. She gets a package of necessary, and even fun items and shares it with her unit.

“We send basic things you would think they should get, but don’t,” said Joy Marschel, activities director at the Manor.

The residents have been preparing a package for Basara including a hand-made fleece blanket. Marschel has even included Christmas decorations Basara can use to decorate her room.

It’s a program where everyone can get involved. Marschel explained that even the school-aged daycare children are taking time in their classrooms to send letters.

“It’s fabulous how the program has expanded so much,” she said.

In a recent letter, Basara stated, “It really means a great deal to me and to the other soldiers over here. Sometimes, we forget what we are fighting for. But then we get something in the mail from great people like you and we remember why.”

“The fact that we can support our troops over there has been a nice program,” Marschel said.

She also explained people can get involved through the web site either individually or in a group. There are designated meeting areas in which a person can bring 10 of one item and trade with the other adoptees to make a diverse care package.

How it all began

It began with one of the founder’s sons being stationed in Iraq. His family and friends took turns every three to four weeks sending small care packages which included snacks, playing cards, and beef jerky.

The soldier then said during a phone conversation with his mother, “It’s so great to get these packages from home. I have been sharing mine though. There are guys over here that get very little from home. There are even some who don’t get anything. They are feeling forgotten. They feel like once everyone at home turns off their evening news, that no one cares about Iraq.”

As a result, the mother asked for the names of these “forgotten” soldiers to adopt them and send them each a care package, as well.

Within two months, there were 17 adopted soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and 10 volunteers. Currently, there are 500 volunteers with matched soldiers.

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