Sparta woman sends care packages to remote US troops

To Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere with love

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  • Tina Rowan's home used for a packing party

  • Packages ready to leave the Post Office for destinations around the world

  • Tina Rowan holding grandson Jackson

By Laurie Gordon

— Tina Rowan is a modern day Florence Nightingale, except instead of tending to the sick she ships care packages to remote areas where US soldiers are stationed.

Her impetus to do this began when her son, Liam, joined the Marines and was deployed after he graduated from Sparta high school in 2017.

"He was deployed to the Middle East and a good base," Rowan said, "But I quickly learned that there were many other soldiers in very remote areas where there was no base. They are reliant on the MREs (meals ready to eat) that come in every few weeks."

So Rowan started a campaign to personally collect items for care packages to send to these remote places including Afghanistan and Somalia.

"There are many stationed in these remote places where it is extremely desolate," she said. "They receive only the very basics from the military and no comforts whatsoever."

Via her personal Facebook page, the Sparta Mom's Facebook page and the Sparta Acts of Kindness Facebook page, Rowan started sending out list of items that were needed and began packing boxes to send to the military stationed abroad.

"To send these packages you have to show that you are connected with the military due to security and the United States post office has flat-rate boxes we can send out for approximately $17 per box." Rowan said. "We fill these boxes with as much as we can."

Around Halloween time, the boxes contain candy and they always include such items as Kool-Aid, canned spaghetti, spices to add to the food. Canned fruit, Rowan said, is "just huge" with the recipients. Socks, handwarmers, water, and even toilet paper have also been sent.

"At Christmas time the Sparta Methodist churches mother-daughter group sent letters and made cookies to send, " Rowan said. "Some of the letters got responses back from members of the military in remote spots which was great. "

Some of the packages ended up in a remote area of Romania, she said,

Rowan will post that she's having a "packing party" on her Facebook page and people – even complete strangers – will show up to help pack, or bring a bag of items to donate, or a check to help with the shipping costs.

Rowan moved to Sparta when she was seven years old and attended the Alpine School, Sparta High School, and graduated from Sussex Vo-Tech. She went on to become a registered nurse and now works as an occupational health manager for UPS. Rowan has raised her four children — Liam and his three sisters — in Sparta. One daughter is still in college and the other two are grown and have given Rowan and her husband grandchildren.

Groups that have helped by having drives for items or donating money to ship packages have included the Sparta Moms, the Newton American Legion, the Purple Heart Society out of Newton, Newton Pediatric Dentistry, the Law Offices of Laddey Clark and Ryan and the Sparta Elks, as well as many of Rowan's family members and people in the community.

To date, 185 packages have been sent out through this grassroots drive being steered by Tina Rowan.

Below is a partial list of needed items that will help make life a little more comfortable for military members.

Food; non-perishable and non-microwavable items only

Beef jerky; Fruit cups; Canned spaghetti/ravioli; Crackers and cheese; Protein mix; Energy shots; Drink mixes; Nuts, hard candy, gum; Peanut butter; Seasoning for food; Granola bars; Canned food, fruits, tuna, etc.; Pudding; Homemade cookies; Bacon bits to add to food; Kool Aid; Flavored coffee; Mustard packets; and hot sauce packets

Among non-food items: Baby wipes; Hand sanitizers; Sunscreen; Jock itch powder; Athlete's foot powder; Kleenex small packets; Toilet paper; Eye drops; Lens cleaners; Tylenol; Lotion; Deodorant; Q tips; Toothpaste; Shampoo; Chapstick; Non-aerosol shaving cream; Body wash; Band-aids; Antibacterial cream; Mouthwash; Dr Scholls inserts; Dark colored socks; briefs and boxers; T-shirts; Laundry pods, Insect repellant; and small towels.

Contact Tina Rowan's Facebook page, or that of the Sparta Moms, or that of the Sparta Acts of Kindness for further information.

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