Burbank volunteers give overseas soldiers a hand

Hundreds of volunteers gathered Saturday to box up nearly 1,000 care packages that will be sent to soldiers serving overseas.

The packages — which included everything from books and bottles of hot sauce, to socks and shaving cream — are slated to be shipped abroad to U.S. soldiers, many in the Middle East, for arrival between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Keller Williams Realty hosted the third annual “Thank a Soldier” event, in partnership with the nonprofit Hands Across the Battlefield, in the parking lot of the real estate firm’s Burbank office.

“We want to send stuff overseas to these soldiers so they’re not forgotten over the holidays,” said Realtor Barry Gussow of Keller Williams.

Every year, the event has grown. Last year, volunteers put together 480 care packages. This year, that number more than doubled to 981. 

All of the supplies in the packages were donated by local businesses and organizations.

“It’s just touching to be in a community that cares that much,” said Realtor Paul Sessum of Keller Williams, who helped launch the event three years ago. 

In the care packages, volunteers also included thank-you cards and photos of themselves filling the boxes, Sessum said.

The project hits home for the 22-year Burbank resident, whose stepbrother served three tours in Iraq.

“The sacrifice that he and his family made [has]always touched my heart personally,” Sessum said. “People have the same sentiment.”

Among the most rewarding aspects of the project are the thank-you notes the company gets from soldiers after they receive the packages, he said.

In a handwritten letter, one soldier wrote that the care packages kept the platoon motivated. “We are going on our sixth month in Afghanistan and snacks are running low, so we appreciate the re-supply,” the soldier wrote.

In a separate email, one captain wrote, “Because of people like you, we are able to do our job more effectively.” 

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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