Boxes and crates filled with canned meats, snacks, stationery, and personal hygiene necessities are loaded onto two SUVs parked outside CHI East Texas Clinical Services, a clinic formerly known as Greater Houston Physician Medical Association, 17521 St. Luke's Parkway in The Woodlands.
Radiation Therapist Morgan Adams is beaming with excitement.
“I can't begin to tell you how heart-warming it is to see all these donated items in just less than one month,” she says, busy moving the packages with her colleagues.
The SUVs would head to the clinic&'s branch in Kingwood where the supplies would be picked up and delivered to the national veterans association American Legion's Post 512 in Dayton. From Slim Jim and SPAM to Q-tips and foot powder to board games, crossword puzzle books, and a vast amount of paper to write letters to loved ones – nearly 50 kinds of supplies would be shipped from the post to U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in time for the holiday season.
“As I started going through all the bags of donated items, my heart was filled with joy knowing the impact we would potentially make on our troops who are so far away from home,” Adams says. “It's hard to fathom the sacrifice these troops have made for us. I can only hope we'll bring a smile to their faces this Christmas.”
A Patient's Connection The project started in late October when the staff of the clinic's Department of Radiation Oncology and Diagnostic Radiology was looking to engage in a collective act of kindness for the holidays. Kathryn Lewis, MD, Radiation Oncologist, learned about the needs of the American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from her patient Jerry Killion, a U.S. Navy veteran and adjutant with the American Legion Post 512. Killion and his friends with the legion were organizing a campaign to collect supplies for 235 troops deployed from the Fort Hood military base in Killeen, Texas.
Dr. Lewis jumped on the opportunity, connected with the legion through Killion, and led about 30 clinic staff members to start donating and collecting supplies based on a list of needed items the legion provided.
Posters and fliers began to appear in the waiting areas at The Woodlands and Kingwood clinics. More than a dozen current and past patients and their family members also joined the campaign. Before long, office tables were overflowing with supplies.
“I knew this was the perfect opportunity to bring our work team together for a great cause,” Dr. Lewis says. “When the idea was presented to our staff, it immediately took off and turned out far better than I could've ever asked for.”
Killion says he was surprised on his return visit to Dr. Lewis three weeks later.
“I was blown away when I arrived to see the posters and signs at the clinic and the SUVs fully loaded with the supplies. It was mind-boggling that so many supplies were collected in such a short period of time,” he says.
Baby Wipes, Flavored Drink Powder The supplies offer a vivid glimpse into the hardship the soldiers experience daily in their assigned bases and outposts in the strife-torn Middle East: copious amounts of baby wipes are used in lieu of showers that are not always easy to come by; a cup of warm Top Ramen brings the comfort that a military MRE, or meal-ready-to-eat, doesn't; and flavored drink powder poured into a canteen adds a moment of sweetness in a troop&'s harsh life overseas.
“Our troops will really appreciate all of this,” Killion says, noting that hand-made and decorated Christmas cards signed by the clinic staff members along with their pictures included in the care packages would particularly tickle the soldiers.
After picking up the supplies from the clinic, Killion and his legion friends repackaged all the items along with collections from residents and groups in Dayton, Liberty and surrounding communities into U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail boxes in Dayton. One hundred and fifty-one boxes were shipped out to the troops in late November.
“It was an honor and a privilege to provide anything we could to our troops overseas this holiday season,” Dr. Lewis says. “It was also a way to live the CHI mission to care for the larger community. We will continue such efforts in the years to come.”