One From the Heart
"One From the Heart" is always about a woman who is of great interest in and of herself, but also gives something very special back to others. Such a woman is Jeanette Cram. Known far and wide as "The Cookie Lady", she is the founder of a national effort called Treat The Troops. Jeanette takes no credit herself though. She calls herself "only a facilitator." "It isn't about me," she says, giving all of the credit to those who bake together for this wonderful effort. Better known as "The Crumbs", these gals who literally bake their hearts out have sent boxes of home baked cookies to thousands of soldiers all over the world.
Local "Crumbs" include Nadyne Ulicny who bakes almost 600
cookies every month and many others. For example there is Linda
Bemister of Sun City who has her whole street baking once a month.
There is Geri Eichholz, also of the Sun City contingent, and people like Bill
Stubbs who donates money in the names of all of his family members in
lieu of buying them Christmas presents. That is probably the best expression of the love of the Christmas season there can be.
Nadyne confirmed that the most rewarding part of being a "crumb" and
baking for our American Armed Forces are the letters received from the soldiers who have had a Treat the Troops box of cookies from home. "These letters bring tears to my eyes," said Nadyne as I wiped a tear from my eye. I was overcome with emotion as I read just a sampling of the letters. Imagine a soldier, someone's son, father or husband, in a faraway, unfamiliar place, such as Afghanistan or Iraq, opening a box and discovering upwards of five dozen delicious home baked treats. In addition, each box also contains other treats, and most important of all, anywhere from five to fifteen handwritten letters filled with words of encouragement and gratitude. What a feeling it must evoke to know that while risking your very life for those you love and have had to leave behind, you are loved in return and appreciated in a very hands-on, sweet unique way.
Spurred on by the thank-you letters from soldiers, Jeanette, a double cancer survivor, said that this mission truly took her "beyond herself ". She knew that the soldiers needed her more than she needed a "pity party" for herself.
So through the eyes of a soldier on the receiving end, what is
it like to open one of these prized goodie boxes that has been
shipped thousands of miles overseas? "The first thing you would
see is shredded paper and lots of it. Nestled in that paper would be at least
five dozen, that's 60, home-baked cookies, letters of support from me and
some of the "crumbs", candy, snacks, drink mixes, wet wipes, and other
things they might be able to tuck into their pockets," Jeanette described.
Miraculously, all this love fits nicely into a small, flat rate box, which costs
about $10.35 to send. "We also send larger boxes to chaplains and combat
support hospitals. These cost $40 to send," added Jeanette.
How many cookies have left Hilton Head Island and landed
in the hands of soldiers?
The "Crumbs" officially started counting in 2007. They bake and send
treat boxes 11 months of the year, skipping December because of the overflow at the post-office. So far, this remarkable group of women have baked and sent 405,981 cookies which does not include the November mailing where another 1062 dozens - that's 12,744 - of cookies are sure to find a soldier hungry for the tastes of home.
However, Jeanette's mission has not been contained to the Lowcountry.
Women in kitchens all over America, 35 states to be exact, bake for the Treat the Troops operation and send treat boxes from their own states. Including the "Crumbs" of America, 1,813,672 cookies have been sent since 2007, again, not including the November 2009 shipment.
Who pays for it all? Mary Ann Compher is the treasurer and unbelievably
the "Crumbs" not only pay for all the ingredients that it takes to keep
our troops filled with treats, but they also pay for shipping costs out of their
own pockets too. There is help through donations and they have tried to receive grant money from grants they solicit and write for themselves. There is no outside financing. This is a miracle in itself, especially when the outpouring of selflessness did not waiver throughout the recession.
But the work doesn't stop there. Jill Arneman, the vice-president, spends
numerous hours preparing the customs forms and making sure the cookie
counts are correct. Rounded out by all the bakers, together these gals are
the heart of this project, now nationwide since it was founded by Jeanette
in 1990 while she was still a resident of New Jersey. Locally there are about
sixteen "Crumbs" which include Cheryl Ackerman, Jill Arneman, Linda
Bemister, Barbara "Babs" Burke, Chris Carroll, Ellen Cleaves, Vera Cloud,
Mary Ann Compher, Jean Dersch, Geri Eichholz, Judy Fennell, Debbie Myers,Anne Reeves, Sherrie Sauer, Nadyne Ulicny and Patti Zaygers.
This is their way of saying thank-you and
remembering those who are serving our country
in the name of freedom. The only motive here is to
treat the troops.
How can a specific soldier receive a box of cookies? "Well, you can ask
How can more people be a part of this effort of love, support and
encouragement to those who are serving for us? "Our main cost is postage. We get no break on the cost of mailing and we are always so grateful for any help in this area. We pay for our own ingredients, but postage is the biggie," explained Jeanette. In addition, Treat the Troops is a non-profit organization, so all donations are tax deductible.
This group of women hardly sees their work as charity. This is their way of saying thank-you and remembering those who are serving our country in the name of freedom. The only motive here is to treat the troops. No one holds a paid position in this organization. This truly is a group whose modus operandi is from the heart. To learn more log onto ww.treatthetroops.org and join hands with Jeanette and her wonderful "Crumbs" to not only bring a slice of home to a lonely or weary soldier,
but to stir your soul in the process. Now that's a sweet deal!
EXCERPTS FROM SOLIDERS' LETTERS
"Everyone here loved the cookies. To be remembered warmed not only our
bellies, but also our hearts." -Danni
"I bet all of you would love to see the smiles you have caused around here.
It was Christmas two months early for us. Thanks Jeanette, Jill, Nadyne, Mary Ann, Dan, Patti, Linda, Alora, Mark and Marge-you have done it again." -Camp Mike Spann (Afghanistan) - thanks for your love and support.
"As a physician stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, I must tell you how touched we were by your wonderful cookies. The letters were so much appreciated. Thank you for your kindness and thoughtfulness." -Herman, Major, USAF, MC (MD)
"May God bless you, your work, your families, the State of South Carolina, and our great nation. Your thoughts, letters, prayers and cookies are so appreciated." -David, 38th HR Company, Bagram Air Field
"I could not write this letter to all of your contributors, so I can only thank you. You will never know how much difference one package, a few cookies and some letters can make in our lives here." Semper Fidelis-Lt. Philip, D Company, 2nd LAR Battalion