A group of soldiers' spouses, children and friends worked overtime last week to help a National Guard battery that just arrived in Iraq prepare for a long winter ahead as military police.

Hundreds of Lorane Elementary School students helped Donna Brown and members of a family support group in Exeter Township sort and box donations on Nov. 9.

Staff at Lorane and the Berkshire Commons assisted living facility had collected various personal items, holiday gifts and non-perishable food for shipment. More than 50 parcels will be mailed Nov. 18 to the Gulf Region.

Brown's husband Capt. Frank Brown is the commanding officer of the 100-strong Charlie Battery of the 213th Air Defense Attachment, based in Spring City, Montgomery County.

Some stateside Charlie Battery soldiers helped the students, including captains Michael Hood and Craig T. Lloyd.

Hood returned home July 1 following duty with an Iraqi police detachment. Quietly reflecting on his experience and the personal impact of receiving two care packages, he said, "When we would receive the packages and letters from the kids, it helped our morale tremendously."

The Lorane students enjoyed saluting the men and expressing words of encouragement as each classroom filed into the cafetorium to sort and box the goods.

Volunteers and teachers wore T-shirts that read, "Army National Guard ... Established 1636 ... 100 % a Soldier."

Like many spouses of the soldiers, Donna Brown is single-handedly caring for three small children, including her eldest, Gabrielle, a member of Tara M. Crawford's kindergarten class.

Although Capt. Frank Brown had to miss Gabrielle's first day of public school, while on brief leave recently he was able to take her to the bus stop twice.

"It's hard for all of us when they are away, but keeping busy with activities like this prevents me from thinking about it as much," Donna Brown said.

The students got opportunities to show their gratitude and patriotism. "We talk about our servicemen and women serving in Iraq all the time because Gabby Brown's father is there now. I think it's a good thing the children can help in this way," Crawford said.

At Berkshire Commons, retired residents, their family members and a handful of World War II War veterans showed their gratitude for the soldiers' dutiful service by packing similar items and attaching encouraging letters.

"The response has been wonderful," said Kimberly Kostival, director of marketing and admissions at Berkshire Commons. "Our residents and staff and administration have donated hand-held games, word searches and videos to help the time pass more quickly for the troops. We will be sending monetary gifts so they can purchase things as needed."

She also praised the Sheetz Minimarket on Route 422 south (Perkiomen Avenue) for contributing 128 individual bags of assorted coffees for the holidays.

Anyone interested in contributing goods for the care packages should call Donna Brown at 610-407-0755.

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