Nicole Wills, of Dyer, dedicates herself to ensuring that soldiers receive a piece of home through her group, Northwest Indiana Supports Our Soldiers.
Wills, 25, began sending care packages to her brother, Ted, when he deployed to Afghanistan in November, 2011.
“My brother not only is a huge inspiration in my daily life, but he’s the reason I started NWISOS. He deployed just a few weeks after getting married and just two weeks before his first child was born,” she said.
Wills soon enlisted the help of First Christian Church of Dyer to expand her reach and now has six full-time volunteers there.
Her team collected more than 1,000 greeting cards in 2011 to send to soldiers through the American Red Cross program Holiday Mail for Heroes.
In 2012, when her brother’s unit suffered multiple casualties, Wills began sending care packages of gum, chocolate and nuts to his entire group.
“We had an Easter card event that provided 500 cards and boxes of candy for the unit. While organizing this event, Walgreens became involved and set out donation boxes at several of their local stores to collect Item of the Month donations.”
In the past year, NWISOS has shipped 200 packages to soldiers in various locales.
“We have received many heartfelt letters of appreciation from the recipients or their family, expressing their gratitude for us taking the time to reach out to them and show our support,” Wills said.
“It’s exciting to get an email or picture from the service member that received the care package. It brings it full circle for us to see where the packages end up and how they put a smile on someone’s face.”
Northwest Indiana Supports Our Soldiers will hold a Vendor and Craft Fair at First Christian Church of Dyer on May 25 to collect donations and raise funds for postage costs, which average $15 per box sent.
“At this time, we are looking for non-chocolate treats for the summer months. Beef jerky is always a big hit,” she added.
“We would love to have other businesses putting out donation boxes or selling an item of the month so that we can send a greater variety of snacks.”
For more information on Northwest Indiana Supports Our Soldiers, visit facebook.com/NWISOS.