Holiday 4 Heroes began in 2007 because of a chance encounter with a young mother. She had come into my post office with an armload of stuff and was trailed by three little girls. Seeing that she was a couple of hands short I asked her if I could help. She was mailing a care package to her husband serving in the US Army in Iraq. She was mailing tee shirts, socks, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash and Advil. I joked that her husband must be awfully picky about his personal care since she had to send all this stuff to him. What she said to me next floored me. That day I was given an education by this young mother on just what it is like to have a loved one serving our country in a war zone. I was told that the US government does not supplythe basics to our soldiers and that it was up to the families to see that these needs are met. As nearby bases and commissaries are shut down these items become difficult to acquire. In turn, this becomes a burden to the families that are already strapped. On top of all that, they have to pay for the postage to send the supplies.
When I went home that night I could not stop thinking of my conversation with Diana. The next day I shared her story with my staff and we all agreed that we needed to do something. I called Diana and asked how we could help. She told me that many soldiers in her husband’s unit never received packages from home and that the ones who did would share the bounty with others. We contacted their Chaplain and he gave us a supply list and we went to work. We asked our customers to buy and donate supplies and our company donated the money for the postage. That first year we busted with pride as we sent 46 boxes to our soldiers.
Each year starting in September we search out local soldiers to adopt. We try to supply their entire camp. Our community has really come together on this project. People donate tons of supplies, make their own care packages and donate money for the mailings. We involve local schools to write notes of thanks and Jr. ROTC programs to help with the packing. We hold fundraisers and ask local businesses to become sponsors. To date, Holiday 4 Heroes has sent over 10,000 boxes to Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria to comfort our active duty military members.
In 2018 we added three new initiatives. We provided a Merrier Christmas for a local Cape Coral Military Family, who were going through some difficult times. We collected over 4000 toys and stocking stuffer's and over $2000 of gift cards and monetary donations to give to those in the Panhandle where Tyndall Airforce Base was totally destroyed by Hurricane Irma. And lastly, we developed a Backpack for Homeless Veterans Program.
In 2020 we added a Bulk Food Program for Homeless and in-need Veterans in conjunction with the VA.
Our team evolved as the program grew. Marie Dyer, a prominent artist, joined the team offering her creative artistic abilities and design talents. Tonirae Hurley brings extensive non-profit and event planning experience to the team. Kelly Byas, a Marketing whiz, assists with our fundraising efforts. Madelyn Kish, our Donation Queen solicits the businesses in the area for donations. Pauline Whalen, a Business and IT Professional, handles the technical and communications for the charity. Tricia Rice, joined the team in 2020 and will be heading our Packing Operation at her warehouse in Fort Myers where she has generously donated the space. Most of the team has been together since 2010. We all do whatever it takes to make our fundraisers successful and keep the charity growing.
Thank you for your consideration of Holiday 4 Heroes. Please contact me with any questions at (239) 677-9923.
Jonette and Peter Kessack, Founders
Holiday 4 Heroes Awards:
Lee Republican Women's Club
"Lee County Woman of Distinction Award for Holiday 4 Heroes"
Daughters of the American Revolution
"Excellence in Community Service Award"
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Lee County Director's Cup Award
"Veteran's Administration Annual Voluntary Service Donor of the Year"