‘Couldn’t let them go without;’ Community gathers to create care packages for deployed troops

CENTERVILLE — Several troops from the Miami Valley won’t be home for the holidays this year, but a local group is working to make sure they have a chance to celebrate the upcoming holidays.

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A non-profit organization called Blue Star Mothers held an event to collect and assemble gifts for the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s 89th Airlift Squadron.

Community and organization members met at O’Leary’s Pub & Grub in Centerville on Sunday to put the care packages together.

“Hearing all the stuff that they didn’t have, towels, chapstick (because) they’re in the desert, Q-tips, body wipes. Just simple stuff that we can walk around and get and not even think about,” event organizer Don Matalka said.

Matalka organized the event with the hopes of putting together enough care packages for the troops being deployed.

“I get to go home and hug my dog; I can sleep in my own bed because of what they’re doing. I couldn’t let them go without… I couldn’t let them know that we don’t appreciate what they’re doing especially during the holidays,” Matalka said.

Matalka and the Blue Star Mothers had one week to plan the event.

“Because there are 141 service members right now, we just did 141 Christmas stockings so we’re going to be shipping those out tomorrow,” Blue Star Mothers President Susan Bettinger said

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Each care package will be filled with different items based on their needs.

“We find out from them what they need and then we find out how can we support them and the other troops serving with them,” Bettinger said.

Various community members joined in to help spread the joy and assemble care packages.

“Viking Heat and Air just came today and said here’s a thousand dollars, O’Leary’s literally opened the doors to us for whatever we needed,” Matalka said.

The first shipment of care packages will be sent out by Dec. 1.

For more information on the Blue Star Mothers or to make a donation, visit the Dayton Blue Star Mothers website.