July 15, 2010By Stephanie Choate Observer staff
Williston resident Barbara Greck always keeps a few gift certificates in her purse to give to any soldiers in uniform she sees.
“A big chunk of our population has been taken away from their families to serve,” Greck said. “We’re living with all the freedoms we have because of these men and women who have gone off to war and fought for us, and we take it for granted sometimes.”
Greck, a retired teacher, has been organizing soldier outreach programs. She has been urging her neighbors and fellow Vermont residents to get involved, doing anything from writing a letter to a soldier to helping military families with yard work.
“In a small way, we can all do something to help in the effort,” Greck said.
Greck is the captain of Vermont’s chapter of the nationwide nonprofit Soldiers’ Angels, which works to support soldiers and their families.
“I think the best thing about being retired is you can get involved in something like this,” she said. “It makes me feel wonderful … being a help in some way to our soldiers over there, God bless them all.”
Right now, Greck is striving to raise awareness about Soldiers’ Angels and its work.
“I’d just like to wake people up and say there is a definite need and there will be a need when these guys get home,” she said.
She is also working to get Vermont businesses to donate their products, everything from coffee to manual labor.
Greck has encouraged several of her neighbors to get involved.
Williston resident Shirley Rounds has already sewn approximately 60 cooling scarves. The scarves are filled with superabsorbent hydrogel, which gets cold when soaked in water.
“I don’t think people realize how hot it is over there and what something from home means,” Rounds said. “I just think it’s necessary to keep up their morale.”
Rounds, who has a Vermont National Guard flag flying outside her house, said it is easy to make a difference to soldiers.
“Even just writing a letter or sending a card means so much to these kids,” she said.
Another neighbor of Greck’s, Midge Mast, has also been getting involved. She said it takes very little effort to write a letter or put some things in a box.
“I think it’s just wonderful if you can give them something,” Mast said. “It seems like so little, and then they’re doing so much.”
Greck started writing letters to a local soldier who was deployed eight years ago. She did some research on the Internet and connected with Soldier’s Angels.
“It kind of fell into place and it’s been kind of like a calling to help,” she said.
Now, Greck and a local group support a company of 10 soldiers in Afghanistan, sending letters once a week, along with care packages.
“It just gives them something to read over there that’s positive,” she said. “You don’t have to commit, you just have to do it once or however many times you feel you can.”
For more information or to get involved, contact Greck at 288-9644 or visit www.soldiersangels.org.