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Gouverneur program provides for soldiers

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GOUVERNEUR — Grace M. Gates and volunteers who work with her have sent out more than 4,000 care packages to deployed soldiers over the last five years.

“Grace does it with her heart and soul and her adopted sons and daughters know it,” Michael T. Plummer, a retired colonel who helps to place deployed divisions with civilian sponsors, said in an email. “She is one great American.”

Mrs. Gates began realizing the importance of home to soldiers after a grandson who had gone to Iraq told her how much packages were appreciated. Then a grandson-in-law who committed suicide after returning stateside after duty overseas convinced Mrs. Gates that deployed soldiers needed to know someone was thinking of them.

“A couple of soldiers have told me it’s not what’s in the packages. It’s that somebody cared enough to send one,” Mrs. Gates said. “I’ve never lost my enthusiasm to keep this going. I have never lost the excitement I started with.”

Mrs. Gates and a crew of volunteers, who have changed over time, gather items that soldiers need — such as personal hygiene products, coffee, breakfast food, powdered drinks and lots of homemade cookies — and mail them four times a year to units supplied by Mr. Plummer or families. Special shipments also take place.

“We usually don’t have to work to find soldiers. They find us,” Mrs. Gates said. “We can’t always send everything they need, but we try like the devil.”

Mrs. Gates often meets the soldiers she has served at welcome home parties.

“It is America at her best,” Mr. Plummer said.

The constant drive to gather donations of items and cash is wearing, Mrs. Gates said.

“I think our big problem is really money,” she said. “We can do as much as our money allows. This community is marvelous, really, They’ll give you what they have.” Each package costs $14.85 to ship, not including the products inside.

Donations can be made out to Care Packages for Soldiers and mailed to Mrs. Gates at 58 Averill St., Gouverneur.

Volunteers also are welcome to help sit at tables in stores and pack. The next packing date is Sept. 14 at Pine Grove Community Center.

Mrs. Gates and all the Adopt a 10th Mountain Platoon sponsors perform a service, Mr. Plummer said.

“If the all-volunteer Army is to survive, those volunteers need to know that their sacrifice and service is appreciated,” he said.

Other platoons are available for adoption, said Mr. Plummer, who can be reached at plummike@aol.com.

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