UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

X-mas Care Packages Sent to UMB Soldiers

This holiday season thousands of troops will be stationed thousands of miles away from their families and friends. In an effort to alleviate some of that distance the university and the veteran community on campus are collaborating to send care packages to UMass Boston students and alums that are serving time in the military overseas.

“External Affairs wanted to do something special this Christmas, they wanted to reach out,” said Gus St. Silva, Director of Veteran’s Affairs. “I think a lot of it came out of the dedication we did on the fifth of November,” he said of the memorial ceremony and bench dedication held last month for UMB alumnus and US Army Chief Warrant Officer Kyran Kennedy, whose black hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq last November. “I guess it must’ve touched us in a way that’s a bit closer to home.”

“I have over the years always reached out to some of the students that I have information for… But, this is nice to see that the college is doing it… It’s just refreshing that the university approached us to put this together,” said St. Silva

According to St. Silva, nine packages were sent out to seven students and two alums stationed in Iraq and elsewhere abroad for the holidays. The packages included UMB t-shirts, Red Sox apparel, AA batteries, mini-flashlights, socks, disposable cameras, cookies, crackers, and gum.

The student-run Veteran’s Center also donated Cross pens bearing the UMass Boston logo that they also presented to students that returned back to school from military service this semester.

“We wanted to get involved in it and just try to make Christmas that much better for somebody overseas and just let them know that we appreciate everything that they’re doing for our country,” said Veterans Center Coordinator Louis Colon. “And, it feels a little bit better when you receive something unexpected, it lifts your spirit up when you’re low… the university wanted to do this with Veteran Affairs…and we wanted to do our part as well.”

The packages were sent out last week in order to allow sufficient time for their holiday arrival. St. Silva says that the most difficult part was tracking down the locations where students and alumni are based. Veterans Affairs staff have spent the last couple of weeks calling families to pinpoint addresses and contact information.

Colon will be one of two students manning a table at the University Christmas party on December 21 in order to collect donations to pay for the gifts. According to St. Silva, the Office of Community Relations plans to list the students to whom packages were sent along with brief bios on the party’s invitations.

Colon, himself a Veteran, understands the impact these gifts may have on their recipients. “When I was in the military my first Christmas away from home a friend of mine bought me something for Christmas. I had no idea I was getting anything from him. … It was on a day too, you know, I didn’t have a good day that day. It was snowing out, I remember the day clear cut. I was upset that I wasn’t going home for Christmas. And, I go to my mailbox and-BAM, there was a present from my friend from home and I never even knew that he was going to send something to me. That lifted my spirit so high,” says Colon.

He adds, “I felt okay to miss Christmas with the family because I was like ‘You know what, they’re thinking about me.’ Even though I can’t be there with them, they still are thinking of me and I’m kind of there anyway because of the fact that they’re thinking of me…. We’re hoping that’s the kind of effect that we have …They’ll be amazed that the university was thinking of them. It doesn’t even have to be the best or the most expensive present ever, just a little something.”

Donations can be made at the Christmas party reception between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom or in the Community Relations Office on the third floor of the Quinn Administration Building.