Fun packages a labor of love


By Sheila Smith
Decatur Herald & Review

DECATUR -- Marguerite Taylor was busy taping boxes and stuffing them with items to send to troops abroad while thinking about her 23-year-old son, Brandyn, who is getting ready to leave for Afghanistan after recently spending 15 months in Iraq.
Taylor was part of an Operation Enduring Support effort on Monday at Grace United Methodist Church that was putting together 100 fun packages to send to soldiers.
As Taylor was working, her son was getting ready to leave today for training in California. "I try not to think about the bad things and only think of it as my job to protect my country," said Brandyn Taylor who is in Decatur visiting his family while on leave from the Army.
Tables were packed with food items, toiletries, notepads, stationary, Chicago Cub caps as well as Rubik's Cubes, games, magazines, DVDs and the most requested item, Mad Libs, a word game booklet.
The packages contained mostly fun things for the soldiers to do to further help boost their moral, said Betty Gaumer, founder of Operation Enduring Support.
Paula Hirstein did all the shopping and spent about $3,000 on the items for the fun packages, which the Rotary Club and the youth group from Grace United helped put in large-sized priority mail boxes.
Hirstein said she got involved with Operation Enduring Support in 2005 after her son went to Iraq and came back with a brain injury.
"The packages are a way of having contact from home and really means a lot to the soldiers," Hirstein said. "The Decatur community has been unbelievable and consistent in helping support the troops."
Money to purchase the items came from private donations as well as businesses, churches and civic organizations.
The group is motivated to continue helping, Gaumer said, because of the responses they get such as the one after they sent care packages at Easter.
"It really got to us when a lieutenant wrote and thanked us. He had gathered everyone around to watch a movie we sent them, "The Simpsons Movie," and said he never heard his men laugh so hard," she said.
(Reprinted with permission from the July 13 issue of the Decatur Herald & Review.)