By SHERRY DIGMON
At one point, René just stood still, then raised her hand to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears.
For René Bunch, a visit to the post office Friday morning, November 27, was beyond special. With the help of Santa and Mrs. Claus, René delivered 37 care packages full of items bound for members of the military around the world. These boxes are headed to East Africa, Syria, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Earlier in the year, packages were sent to Alaska, Germany and to several ships in the Pacific.
René has sent 136 since January 1. Since the Fox10 Surprise Squad featured her in September, she has sent around 73.
“The exact number of service members who enjoyed these packages is actually unknown as they always share boxes,” René said.
Working with Military Parents Operation Support (MPOS) – Serving Our Warriors (SOW), she works with commanding officers of all branches of U.S. service to prepare and ship care packages to U.S. soldiers deployed around the world.
René’s efforts got a tremendous boost this year. In September, the Fox10 Surprise Squad presented her with a $300 gift card. Atmore Walmart donated a pick-up truck load of food and supplies.
The assistance was greatly appreciated. It costs about $20 just to ship a package plus $40 to $80 for the contents, according to what is actually needed by the soldier. This is not as easy as just buying some stuff and packing a box. There are considerations, such as the international shipping process and what items are disallowed in various countries. René knows and adheres to the rules. In fact, she’s working on a how-to video to help others pack boxes correctly.
So, how does René know who to send packages to?
“We get our names from people we know who have had a loved one deploy, from our members who know somebody who has had a loved one or friend deploy, from moms in other groups we are part of, basically from all over and from lots of different people and places,” she said. “Our guys in East Africa got my name and our group info from my son’s captain when my son’s unit redeployed stateside. I always encourage anybody I speak to about our group to please let me know if they know of a deployed person.”
René has a heart for the military. She is a retired Air Force veteran, and her son currently serves in the Army.
Getting and preparing care packages is a year-round fund-raising project. This year, in addition to receiving donations, she sewed and sold masks and sold muscadines.
“I don’t know how many masks I made and sold but it was well over a hundred, and I gave away probably twice that many. I still have a few, too,” René said. “I also sold my muscadines; this was a great year for them.”
If you would like information on how to help or if you would like to make a donation, you may send a private message on René’s Facebook or contact her at 251-359-4039.
(By the way, René’s helpers, Santa and Mrs. Claus, are her sister and brother-in-law Arelene and Philip Mack.)