GE’s Veterans Network completed its 11th Annual Troop Care Package Drive last month, collecting more than 15,000 pounds of donated items. They packaged and shipped more than 2,500 boxes filled with helpful items to thousands of deployed service men and women around globe, including some 60 GE employees who still serve in the U.S.’s National Guard and Reserve forces and have been placed on activate-duty orders.

Watch all of these items came together in this highlights video.

Donation items were collected in barrels positioned around GE facilities and from self-held drives. They also used an Amazon registry, where anyone could order online and ship items directly to the main packing location.

More than 250 volunteers dedicated almost 1,200 hours to sort through the donations, put the packages together and ship. In addition to the Veterans Network, GE’s People with Disabilities Network and Asian Pacific American Forum supported this drive, as well as Kroger’s Veterans Network and the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, showing how communities can work together to support our service members deployed around the globe.

“These troop care packages mean a lot to our men and women who are deployed,” said Shane Wright, GE Aviation’s chief financial officer and an executive sponsor of GE’s Veterans Network. “These packages help provide a meaningful way for them to remember that there are folks back here in the States who care … and support what they’re doing protecting our country.”

GE sent packages to more than 20 locations around the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Djibouti, Qatar, Kosovo, Japan, Germany and naval ships located in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. Each package contained snacks, toiletries, entertainment and thank you notes from GE employees and elementary school students.

GE employees Eli Lessing and Carol Hartman had co-led the drive for many years and continue to grow and increase its impact throughout the world.

“My team and the countless volunteers that helped out dedicating so many hours to make this operation work, and the thank you letters we receive make it all worth it,” shared Hartman. “I’m blessed to be a part of such a special event that makes a difference in the lives of the men and women that are serving our country.”

Lessing and Hartman received many thank you letters this past year from service members who received GE care packages. Below are just a handful of the messages included in those notes.

  • “It is because of people like you and the support of local organizations back home that can make a sometimes dreary and dangerous environment much more enjoyable.”
  • “The letters from the kids made me tear up … you are all so greatly appreciated!”
  • “It can be tough being away from family and friends for long periods of time, as well as not being able to access things you are used to, but knowing people back home care, even people you don’t know, kick my motivation into overdrive to keep fighting the good fight.”
  • “Your thoughtfulness is touching; reminding us of exactly why we are over here.”
  • “Thank you for your generous donations, thoughts, prayers, and care that you have provided us during our deployment … THANK YOU for YOUR service to our great country in keeping our military fit to fight.”
  • “THANK YOU!! For all the wonderful items and goodies in those care packages … It always makes life here much more bearable on long deployments and being away from loved ones to receive these packages.”
  • “I especially loved the letters and drawings from the kids. I hung them up and shared the sweet words they all had to say.”
  • “Everyone is so very grateful for all the love and support you, the employees of GE, and the kids have shown us. It makes it easy to serve when you know you have great Americans such as yourselves supporting us.”
  • “You recently sent a Fourth of July care package to the U.S. troops deployed in Qatar. They were kind enough to share the wealth with the allied colleagues stationed here, and fighting the same war side by side. As the Dutch contingent, we received the care package donated by GE employees. We are very grateful for all the kind gifts and cute letters from the kids.”