Looking around the living quarters of soldiers in Iraq, you would probably expect to see normal possessions of those deployed: fatigues, a few pictures, maybe some books or magazines, and … white chocolate macadamia nut cookies?
At least those cookies might be found in the rooms of troop members that can successfully play “Six Degrees of Jill Edwards.”
Edwards, office supervisor in the University’s administrative offices, and her sister Sue Kohn have sent thousands of cookies to troops overseas.
“This began with my sister in March of last year,” Edwards said. “She’s been sending care packages over there for some time and had established some wonderful contacts.
“Sue knows how much I enjoy baking, and asked me to contribute cookies to the care packages, and I was happy to help.”
And now, instead of sending just packages of cookies, Edwards’ efforts have grown into a project that includes many members of the University community.
Not long ago, Edwards learned that University employees Nicholas Pruitt, a technical assistant in Olin Library, and John Morschl, a cast technician in orthopaedic surgery, are serving overseas. As a result of efforts coordinated by Edwards, both Pruitt and Morschl now receive University care packages that include everything from cookies and brownies to magazines, toiletries, Frisbees and puzzles.
“I have a ‘care package’ box that sits in our offices and, like magic, it fills up with snacks, toiletries, etc.,” Edwards said. “The generosity of the Washington University community has been overwhelming.
“Since early March, we have been able to send 464 pounds of home-baked goods, snacks, toiletries, as well as many other needed and fun supplies to both Afghanistan and Iraq. Each package contains a postcard with a picture of Brookings Hall or an American flag on it stating that these gifts of appreciation are from employees at Washington University in St. Louis.”
And as one would expect, everything is very much appreciated in the barren and volatile landscape of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“(I) just wanted to say thanks again,” said Pruitt in a recent e-mail to Edwards. “I talked to some of the guys in my unit, and they also told me to tell you thank you, for all that you all are doing. I look forward to meeting you when I return back to lovely WashU.”
The response of the University community has been so strong that Edwards’ care package box always has something in it.
“Most times, I don’t even know where all the donations come from, but we frequently receive donations from employees in the Alumni House, human resources, the Department of Biology, North Brookings Hall, the Campus Bookstore and the Olin School of Business,” Edwards said.
“We have so many donations that we are able to send care packages to other military personnel, including a chaplain that oversees an ‘oasis,’ which is a coffee bar, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and serves 1,200 soldiers.”
Edwards said that she is coordinating a mailing for a group of female soldiers.
“I learned from Maj. Kristine Burnett that one of the things the women miss is color in their surroundings,” Edwards said. “Everything around them is olive-drab green, so she sent me a fun list, and a group of Washington University women is coming together to collect items to add some color to the military women’s tents.”
Regardless of what the care packages are filled with, the service personnel let Edwards’ know how much they appreciate being remembered.
“It will be great when there is no longer a need to send care packages because everyone is safe at home,” Edwards said. “But until that happens, we’ll continue to send the packages.”