Packages From Home

Previous Packages from Home received by soldiers in Afghanistan. Port City Daily file photo.
Previous Packages from Home received by soldiers in Afghanistan. Port City Daily file photo.


Hometown Wilmington Media and South State Bank have teamed up to support Step Up for Soldiers’ winter collection drive, Packages from Home.

Step Up for Soldiers is an all-volunteer nonprofit that has organized a collection drive to send care packages to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan twice a year for the past eight years. This year, Step Up for Soldiers, led by founder Tom Russell, has teamed up with a similar organization, Operation Santa Bag.

Russell hopes that teaming up with another similar organization will lead to more collections so that more troops can receive care packages.

“This is going to be our biggest year yet,” Russell said.

Previous collection drives have provided more than 4,000 servicemen and women with care packages.

“We’ve done a little of everything,” Russell said about the care packages. “I always say, ‘what’s easy to carry, what’s easy to eat, what’s easy to clean,’ because they have to carry everything over there. We don’t need big gallons of anything. We need small things to make life a little more enjoyable—kind of like what you think you’d need if you were lost in the woods for a couple days.”

Suggested items–in addition to personal hygiene products–include socks, hand and foot warmers, hats, footballs, soccer balls, games and one of the most popular requested items: beef jerky.

“A lot of these guys are living in not the conditions that we would like to have them living in. So when they go out on patrols we want to give them things that they can easily carry, eat and clean,” Russell said. “They live in conditions that we don’t understand. So much has changed. When I was in Vietnam we used to go home every night. I was in an assault helicopter squad and we’d fly home back to our base. These guys are living in the middle of nowhere. God bless ‘em.”

Anyone who wishes to donate items can drop them off at Hometown Wilmington Media, 122 Cinema Drive. If a church group or other organization collects packages, Russell will pick up the items. Russell is also seeking names of deployed soldiers and Marines to send care packages. He can be reached at (910) 297-4981 or Collection sites will also be located at the area’s six South State Bank locations (see list below).

“If you have anybody or know anybody, send their name and we’ll take care of it. We’re here, we’re local, and we want to take care of our local people,” Russell said.

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Suggested items

  • Phone cards
  • Baby wipes
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Beef jerky
  • Febreeze
  • Hard candy
  • Travel-size games
  • Playing cards
  • Sunblock
  • Pocket knife/multi-tool
  • Mouthwash
  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Powered drinks
  • Socks and underwear
  • Pringles
  • Body spray/body wash
  • Blue and black pens
  • Notebooks
  • Pictures from home
  • Envelopes
  • Thumb tacks
  • Sunglasses
  • Digital or disposable camera
  • Fly paper
  • Puzzles, crosswords
  • Footballs, soccer balls

South State Bank locations 

  • 3702 South College Road, Wilmington
  • 4008 Oleander Drive, Wilmington
  • 1117 Military Cutoff Road, Wilmington
  • 1117 New Pointe Blvd., Leland
  • 14572 US Highway 17, Hampstead
  • 796 Sunset Boulevard North, Sunset Beach
  • To learn more about Step Up for Soldiers and their ongoing efforts to help troops and veterans, click here.

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