Congratulations to Ann Kurzrock for Winning the February 2023 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

If you could wave a magic wand for the best Valentine’s Day gift ever, what would it be?

Ann shared a sweet description of how she and a group of moms help pay it forward to others. Enjoy her winning submission:

Ann Kurzrock
Ann Kurzrock

When my daughter joined the Navy, I became very patriotic, or “extra,” as my daughter likes to say. I joined Blue Star Mothers of America and was surrounded by other military moms. We participate in many events that help the local military population. But, what we, the moms, are known for is our care packages. With the help of a local Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop we pack and send out care parcels to deployed troops. We hold four parties a year. Three of our four packing parties usually have about 50 to 60 packages. Our biggest party is the Christmas packing party, where we send out at least 250–300 packages.

Now, this is by no means easy or simple. It requires the strategy and logistic skills that would rival any military operation. First, a date is selected. Second, a location to hold the packing party is found. Our Christmas party needs a large location. Next, and the most difficult, is assembling the goods. Donation barrels are placed at locations throughout town asking for individual-sized toiletry and snack items.

For Christmas, the local quilting guild sews Christmas stockings and ditty bags for toiletries. Operation Postcard reaches out to all the local schools and has the students draw and write messages of encouragement to the troops (these notes are treasured by our military). We have one mom that gift-wraps canned goods so that each military person has one thing to unwrap for Christmas. She wraps close to 300 cans every year — she is super “extra.” We have another mom who sorts through individual drink packets and assembles plastic sandwich bags with an assortment of drinks, and another mom makes spice bags with hot sauce, salt and pepper, etc.

On the day of the event, the moms arrive early. Boxes and boxes of items that have lovingly been donated, wrapped, and collected are unpacked and organized at the site of the packing party. Tables are set up, and an assembly line is set up where a volunteer can pick up a box (decorated by local schoolchildren) and walk through, “packing” the box until they reach the last stop. This is where the packing expert shakes the box to make sure nothing rattles. Once she is satisfied, she tapes the box up and slaps a label on it. The boxes are stacked in a corner until the very end, when a picture of all the boxes as well as all the volunteers is taken. Then the boxes are loaded up in a truck to the post office and mailed out to all four corners of the world.

A lot of love goes into these packages. In fact, we call it Love from Nevada. If I could wave a magic wand for the best Valentine’s gift ever, it would be for us moms to actually get to see when the care packages are opened. That would be priceless.