ELYRIA — Hands were moving quickly on a makeshift assembly line off South Abbe Road.
Deodorants and eye drops were being grabbed, two at a time, and stuffed into boxes. Next came canned tuna, candy, applesauce. The boxes kept moving. The night was still young.
“This is the most we’ve ever had,” said Dawn Woodings, founder and president of Home Front Moms, an Elyria group dedicated to supporting troops and veterans.
She was referring to both the number of care packages being assembled in one night — more than 220 — and the number of volunteers who showed up to pack them, about 50, give or take a few stragglers.
Most of them were strangers who learned a only few days earlier or that evening the touching story of why so many packages were being assembled. The story goes like this:
Anthony Ruth, of the Ohio National Guard’s 1484th Transportation Company, was supposed to be deployed in February 2012 to Afghanistan. He and the rest of his unit learned in March they had 90 days to say their goodbyes, however, because they were being shipped out early.
Alison Goode only just met Ruth in January, but was so touched by the turn of events that she was compelled to do something.
“They thought they’d still have all these holidays with their families,” she said. “It made me so sad.”
A few months went by before Goode, 30, found a contact for Woodings, and asked if she could help send some care packages to her friend’s unit.
“When she told me how many, I was like, ‘Wow!’ ” said Woodings, whose largest previous shipment was 35 care packages.
Woodings agreed to help, and began advertising the package assembly event that took place Monday night inside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 hall. Her organization, a local chapter of the national Blue Star Mothers group, organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser that raised more than $1,800 to cover the cost of the shipped packages.
Dick Kearney, whose son, Joshua, was deployed to Afghanistan last month, heard about the assembly at the spaghetti dinner and brought along his son’s wife to help. Joshua Kearney will be one of about 22 soldiers who will also receive care packages assembled Monday that are not in Ruth’s unit.
“It’s really special,” Kearney said. “There’s a lot of giving going on here.”
Included with the individual care packages will be box for the unit as a whole, with Christmas cards, a Christmas tree, football and other gifts.
Goode said though she only knew Ruth for a few months before he was shipped off, she never questioned making sure he and his friends had a decent holiday season.
“If it was my brother or family member going, I would want someone else to do this for them,” she said.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.