By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- A regional organization dedicated to sharing the comforts of home with soldiers stationed overseas is hoping to fill a record 1,600 care packages in time for Independence Day this year — with a little help from a local apple orchard.
MooreMart, a Nashua-based charity, will be accepting donations of care package items at Mack’s Apples up until next month’s shipment.
“We want to let as many people as possible know about it,” MooreMart team leader and Derry resident Emil Ouellette said this week.
This isn’t the first time the organization has worked so closely with Mack’s Apples. This past November, on Veterans Day, members of MooreMart honored orchard owner Andy Mack Jr., with an American flag once flown by Marines stationed in Afghanistan as well as the first ever “Golden Apple” award.
Earlier last fall, the Mammoth Road farm store was used as a drop-off point for residents wishing to donate items to be tucked into care packages for men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And, this past September, Mack hosted a Military Appreciation Day at the orchard’s retail store, where veterans who’d served active duty were each given a complimentary bushel of apples. Mack said he plans on making the event an annual one.
MooreMart began its mission in 2004, when Nashua attorney Paul Moore’s brother was deployed in Iraq. Soon, Moore, a disabled veteran, and his family began sending care packages to the entire N.H. National Guard unit.
The project grew from there. Within two years, the family had sent more than 4,000 packages to troops overseas.
The name “MooreMart” reportedly came about when a soldier receiving his care package exclaimed, “This is even better than Walmart!”
Today, the organization receives donations from local veterans’ organizations, church groups, businesses and school groups.
The care packages are sent directly to individual units, where the unit commander doles them out equally among the soldiers.
“To date, we have sent tens of thousands of care packages to soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and those recovering in veterans hospitals back home,” Ouellette said.
More recently, MooreMart has expanded its mission to include local children in both Iraq and Afghanistan, collecting new school supplies, toys and outerwear for those living in villages that never had a school or where the schools were destroyed.
MooreMart also supplies sports equipment that is used by our troops and given to local residents and children.
Well-wishers are invited to gather at Mack’s Apples on June 16 and 17 to help assemble and ship the care packages in time for the Fourth of July.
The community is invited to decorate a brown gift bag no larger than 8-by-10-by-3 and fill it with requested items, along with red, white and blue-colored candies and other patriotic memorabilia.
Among the items that have proven most popular in the past are toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, decks of playing cards, white athletic socks, one-pound bags of licorice, ramen noodle packages, boxes of candy (the type sold in movie theaters), Power Bars, granola bars, packaged trail mix, peanuts and beef jerky.
Cards, letters and financial donations for postage are also appreciated.
However, Ouellette stressed that sparklers and other fireworks cannot be accepted.
Items may be dropped off at Mack’s Apples anytime through June 16. Pickup of items may also be arranged by contacting Ouellette at Emilolet@aol.com.
For more information, visit www.mooremart.org.