Norwalk Volunteers Send Holiday Joy To The Troops

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Pat Romano of Stratford shows off what a finished box looks like before it gets closed up to be sent to the troops. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Each person in Project From The Heart has their own task. They've got it down to a science now, they said. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Boxes fill the room the Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Fairfield has lent to Projects From The Heart for packaging. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Students from all over Fairfield County send in letters to be put into the boxes that go to the troops. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
Boxes fill the room the Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Fairfield has lent to Projects From The Heart for packaging. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Every Thursday morning, a group of women and men come together at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Fairfield to put together packages to send to U.S. troops deployed around the world.

The group, Projects From The Heart, was started shortly after Sept. 11 when a group of women, all retired Fairfield police wives, came together and wanted to give joy to the troops who were fighting. They have sent nearly 10,000 boxes since then.

This is not the womens first project. When their husbands were still on the Fairfield police force, they worked together to make packages for the soldiers in Vietnam.

“We need to let them know that we care,” said Fairfield resident Shirley Sambrook. “We send over comfort and a smile, a little love in a box.”

Each box is stuffed with toiletries, toilet paper, any special requests from the unit and snacks. The volunteers send out 15 to 20 boxes each week. During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, they send 25 to 30 each week. Sometimes, the boxes also have letters from elementary school students or scout troops, which is the soldier’s favorite part.

“They always ask to hear from the kids,” Norwalk resident Rosemary Romano said. Included in the boxes made last Thursday were letters from a Monroe Girl Scout Troop thanking the soldiers for their efforts and wishing them Happy Holidays.

Almost all of the items are donated through companies or private individuals. Over the years, they have become experts at calling and asking companies for donations, Mirriam Zalenski of Monroe said. “We were really shy at first. But we’re not shy anymore!”

During the holiday season, some boxes are overloaded. But Sambrook said that come February, the boxes of supplies can get so low that they sometimes can send packages only every two weeks.

“It can cost between $400 to $500 to send these boxes,” Shirley Petrino of Fairfield said. Lately it has cost about $300, Sambrook said. Everything is packed on Thursdays and shipped on Fridays, sometimes reaching the unit by early the next week. 

For one volunteer, this is about more than just supporting the troops. Karen Cheny of Monroe started volunteering with Project From The Heart last year, after her son joined the Marines.

“I saw a flier in the Fairfield Diner and called them up,” Cheny said. Helping with the packing and the sending of the boxes helps her to feel like she’s doing something for her son, who is being deployed early next year, she said.

“I come out of here elated every week because I know where it’s going,” Cheny said. “I can’t be there with him, but I can do this."

To find out how to help or donate to Projects From The Heart, contact Sambrook by email or by calling her at 203-259-5903. The group meets every Thursday at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church on Hill Farm Road from 9 a.m. to noon. 

Attached: List of Needs for Project from the Heart and contact details (articles_for_pfh_-_fm21dec2013.pdf)

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