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Operation Care Pack

Americinn employees (from left) Alicia Dibley, Andrea Sieling and Melissa Hiemenz fill a care package for local soldiers serving in Afghanistan. An open house dedicated to filling at least 55 boxes will be held November 10 from 4-9 p.m. at the hotel.

Right now there are several local fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and friends fighting in the war against terror.

Since spring, Minnesota National Guard members from Becker County have been in Afghanistan for a NATO training mission or as part of the 1st brigade combat team of the 34th infantry division in Kuwait.

Those heroes may be temporarily gone from our community, but they are not forgotten.

Employees at the Detroit Lakes AmericInn are doing their part to make sure of that.

"We've been busy going around to different businesses in the area collecting donations for care packages," said Andrea Sieling, who is one of the event coordinators for Operation Care Pack.

Their goal for the event is to put together 55 care packages for the local soldiers in Afghanistan, and Sieling says the response has been "amazing."

"We actually started out with a goal of 30 boxes, but the community has been so supportive and we've been so blessed by what we've gotten, so we upped that goal to 55," said Sieling, "and now it looks like we might even go beyond that."

Sieling says they already have much of the actual care package items, so what they are looking for now are monetary donations to actually ship the boxes.

"The cost to ship one box to one soldier is $12.95," Sieling said. "So if we can get people to sponsor a box, that'd be great. We're going to have a little letter in each box that says the sponsor and who provided the items, so when the soldiers get them they will feel like they're getting a little piece of DL."

And they're hoping those pieces of DL get there in time for Christmas.

On Nov. 10, the AmericInn is hosting an open house for community members who want to participate in Operation Care Pack.

The event goes from 4-9 p.m.

"So we invite anybody who wants to come on out, bring your kids, help pack a box and then we'll have open swimming for everybody," said Sieling, who says participants don't need to bring anything to the hotel.

"We already have a lot of items, but if somebody would still like to donate, I would encourage them to call the hotel first and ask because there are things that we have an overabundance of and things that we still really need," Sieling said.

There is a list of items that soldiers often request -- among them are individually wrapped food items (except pork due to religious beliefs there), razors and soccer balls.

"Those guys love playing soccer over there," said Dani Johnson, Family Support Assistant with the Minnesota National Guard in Detroit Lakes. "So that's a great item to send."

Johnson says since many of the soldiers deployed are not married, many of them don't get care packages very often, so events like this mean a lot to them.

"It lets them know that our community still supports them -- it's their link to home essentially," said Johnson, who adds that she'll be recruiting family members of those deployed soldiers to also be at the Nov. 10 open house at AmericInn so that they, too, can feel the community support.

"Often times so much of the focus is on the soldier, and it can be easy to forget that there is a family back home that could really use some support as well."

Sieling says she believes the Detroit Lakes community is incredibly strong and hopes local soldiers feel a little bit of that all the way in Afghanistan.

"I don't think you can show somebody over there enough thanks," said Sieling. "They've been fighting for us for a long time, and they need to know we're here for them."

To find out more on Operation Care Pack, call the AmericInn in Detroit Lakes at 847-8795.