Not every soldier thinks it’s important to have feminine hygiene products readily available, but to women who serve in the military overseas, those items are as precious as gold. And to Mike McNutt, well, it's just awful that any woman should have to think twice about it.
So he takes personal responsibility to see to it that the Bay Area chapter of Adopt-a-Chaplain has plenty of those unmentionables to send out in its care packages.
When McNutt, a Vietnam vet, learned from an active duty female soldier that feminine products—pads and tampons—were in short supply at her base overseas, he marched into the nearest discount store, bought every package of pad and tampon on the shelf and took them to Adopt-a-Chaplain where he has been a longtime volunteer.
"The basket was full," he says sweeping his hand up and over to illustrate the mound he had in his shopping cart.
McNutt, 74, of Cupertino is among dozens of volunteers from around the Bay Area who work with Adopt-a-Chaplain (AAC) to collect, package and ship care packages to military chaplains all over the world so they in turn can share the goods with deployed soldiers.
Chaplains give the group a "shopping list" of items troops most want or need; things such as beef jerky, lip balm, sunscreen, handwipes, and school supplies for local children are among the long list.
Until a few months ago the Saratoga garage of Gary and Jan Campbell stored things such as hotel-size toiletries, energy bars, candies, magazines, books, music CDs, and of course feminine products. Near the rafters hung a handful of large plastic bags filled with thousands of brand new Beanie Babies troops use to make friends with village children in Iraq and Afghanistan—kids who are apt to point out an IED or the “bad guys,” Campbell said.
AAC was down to a meager supply of Beanie Babies when a woman from Nebraska drove to California with 7,000 of them.
The things they need for the troops somehow just seem to show up on their own, says Ben Ferguson, a minister, veteran and one of the founders of AAC.
“It’s a God thing. We seem to know before they do what they need,” he says.
AAC operations have since moved to Calvary Church of Los Gatos where volunteers gather twice weekly for three weeks each month to fill boxes and ship them out.
"After five years we thought it was time to give back (the Campbell's) garage," Ferguson says.
AAC is unaffiliated with Calvary Church or any other particular church for that matter, though prayer is a part of every step in the giving process. Packaging sessions include a prayer, and there are religious items in stock such as prayer cards, ribbon crosses made by volunteers, and Christian music CDs. Prayer is the most common request by the chaplains, AAC says.
Included in each box is a postcard for the receiving chaplain to send back to AAC with feedback and a wish list.
"If possible, could you please send about 10 Matchbox cars (Hot Wheels). We have several Afghan children in our combat surgical hospital (CSH), and they really enjoy the cars. God bless," wrote Chaplain Christopher Earley on one card.
Special requests of anything from a microwave to a trumpet are filled whenever possible, too. Whether it’s a flag sent for Independence Day or bite-size candy at Halloween, the items inside are as important as the message the box represents on its own.
“The boxes are a tangible reminder that someone cares about them,” Ferguson says.
Adopt-a-Chaplain accepts goods and monetary donations. Visit www.adopt-a-chaplain.org for more information.