By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – During Armed Forces Day weekend, May 17 and 18, Southborough resident Lisa Braccio and a team of volunteers exceeded their goal with the ninth and final care package drive for troops deployed overseas. They packaged over 9,000 pounds of goods into 364 boxes. Added to the past drives, the grand totals are 9,117 boxes weighing about 208,800 pounds.
In 2005, Braccio discovered that service members needed basic items such as toothbrushes. Two weeks later, she and her husband, Matt, organized their first care package drive, which has continued each May and October. Donations included toiletries, food and other items.
Braccio spoke of her appreciation for longtime volunteers at an opening ceremony with special guests at the Southborough Senior Center.
“We never imagined that all these years later, we's still be doing this,” she said. “We were exhausted, but so very proud of our community that truly gave from their hearts.”
It was at the first drive when they began getting help from Commander Steve Whynot of VFW Post 3276.
“He showed us the pride of how a veteran carries himself,” Braccio said. “He never let us down.”
Since the second drive, the shipment of over half the boxes was paid by the Marlborough American Legion Post 132.
“On our sixth and seventh drive,” Braccio added, “two very special women blessed us with their presence and helped the dream of reaching out to more troops: Debbie Wilson and Dorian Jasinski.”
Wilson assisted with fundraising to cover costs. Jasinski took charge of organizing the weekend collections.
Braccio shared that some of her favorite memories of the drive involved children. Kids often arrived with piggybanks to help with shipments. The mother of a boy in a wheelchair relayed that it would mean a lot to her son if he could pack at least one box. Two local schools received thank-you calls from Afghanistan.
State Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, recognized Braccio's 12-year-old son, Robert, as the drive's longest-standing volunteer.
“Robert is spreading the word about the importance of supporting our veterans far and wide in the youth community,” she noted.
A citation from Gov. Deval Patrick was delivered by Northborough resident John Polanowicz, the state's health and human services secretary, who spoke from his firsthand experience.
“Having been deployed, I know what a difference getting a care package from home really means,” he said.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, presented Braccio with the Commander's Award for Public Service.
“Your commendable devotion and tireless dedication in support of the armed forces enabled American servicemen to focus on achieving mission accomplishments during the longest period of sustained conflict in our nation's history,” he said. “Your efforts are in keeping with the finest traditions of American selfless service and reflect distinctive credit upon you, the Southborough community and the commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Photos/Ed Karvoski Jr.