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Step Up for Soldiers truck summer drive 2015

The “Packages from Home” summer drive set up by local non-profit Step Up for Soldiers ended this week with a packing party at the National Guard Armory on Carolina Beach Road.

Nine volunteers gathered Wednesday to stuff care packages for about 350 North Carolina National Guard soldiers in Afghanistan. They packed items such as socks, snacks, baby wipes and toothbrushes that had been donated by local residents throughout the drive. A well-known cosmetics company also provided a big donation.

Step Up for Soldiers summer drive 2015

“Mary Kay cosmetics donated sunscreen and lip balm for all the soldiers,” said Tom Russell, the founder of Step Up for Soldiers, an all-volunteer group. “We got about 500, enough so each soldier can get one.”

Hometown Wilmington Media, formerly known as Sea-Comm Media and the parent company of Port City Daily, worked with Step Up for Soldiers to create the bi-annual drive in 2006 and continues to partner with the charity to promote the event.

Forty-one boxes of items were packed and shipped Wednesday, and 10 more were shipped Thursday. Another 53 packages were assembled and shipped by police officers earlier in the drive.

Each care package is typically shared by multiple soldiers. This summer’s drive produced a smaller haul than past events have — Russell recalled the time that about 1,100 boxes were shipped — but he said every donation means a lot to those soldiers toiling in rough conditions a long way from home.

“I just want to thank everyone for their participation,” Russell said.

The charity’s next drive will be held around the holiday season.

For more information on Step Up for Soldiers and how to donate throughout the year, visit their website.