Sock ‘Em: Stamford resident and founder of SoldierStrong receives Presidential Volunteer Service Award
By Cathryn J. Prince
May 29, 2011
During the Civil War troops looked forward to receiving packages of knit socks and hand rolled bandages, often sent from their hometowns. Now more 27 units of Marines and soldiers eagerly await care packages from SoldierStrong.
Christopher Meek of Stamford started the non-profit SoldierStrong in 2009. On Saturday a battalion of volunteers gathered at his home to tape, pack, and label. At morning’s end assembled between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds of toiletries, socks, snacks and CDs. Each box will go to an individual Marine or soldier serving in Afghanistan.
“More than ever they specifically ask for socks and wipes,” Meek said. “It’s the simple things like that the makes all the difference.”
So far the non-profit has shipped about 30,000 pounds of tube socks, baby wipes and other necessities to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Meek, a vice president at Goldman Sachs & Co.
The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation (the Council) recently awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to SoldierStrong recognizing and honoring their “sustained commitment to civic participation, and inspiring others to make service a central part of their lives.”
“How could you not help?” Frank Lovello said. “All they need are socks.”
Lovello, nicknamed the Drill Sergeant, is Meek’s neighbor. He directed the volunteers on what to fill and how much to put in each box. This was Lovello’s third such “packing party” as the events are called. The next one will likely be near Veteran’s Day.
Each box also included hand written letters from area school children.
“I hope you are all right. You are my best hero. You are really cool. You are the best,” one letter said in careful penmanship.
“Our troops are our troops,” Meek said.” Whether you disagree if they should be in combat, they put their lives on the line every day for people they don’t know.”
SoldierStrong.com is partnered with New Balance in New Canaan; Hope Street Pharmacy in Stamford; UPS Store in Norwalk. The Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49 and Air National Guard out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York will fly the boxes to Afghanistan.
Meek will rent a U-Haul and drive the boxes to Newburgh early this week. Until then his garage will house the boxes.
“It’s my second packing party. I’ve got the system down now,” Jaimie Redniss, a Stamford resident, said as she affixed tape to boxes with professional precision.
Since 2009, SoldierStrong has helped deliver supplies to nearly 40 units, many of which have sons and daughters of CT serving, in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has held supply drives everywhere from Boston, Miami, Hollywood and Iowa.
Last year, Meek launched SoldierSanta.com as a way to send small gifts and more frivolous goodies to troops in combat zones.
Meek hopes the presidential citation will further raise awareness and get more people involved.
“It does mean something to them,” Meek said, “and they do appreciate it.”