AT&T teams create vacation packages for soldiers in Okinawa, Japan

Care packs contain military-grade snacks and candy galore, magazines, playing cards and socks.

But and the “icing on the cake”, according to Chris Garner, are the handwritten greeting cards of Boy Scouts and elementary school students.

“It was important to do something special while on vacation, especially for those who serve our country and are away from their families,” Garner said.

Garner, of Palm Beach Gardens, is director of AT&T National Business, interim president of the AT&T Veterans Florida Employee Resource Group, and – if that wasn’t enough – he is the Boy Scout Leader for Pack 176.

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Garner motivated members of the AT&T Veterans and AT&T Pioneers to put together medical kits that will be sent to 115 soldiers. The care packages were wrapped with a bow and shipped overseas.

This year, the sets are going to Okinawa, Japan. Some of them are sent to a unit where an AT&T employee and a Navy reservist are deployed. Garner and his team of volunteers have been preparing vacation packages for soldiers overseas for the past five years.

“The vacation package is a way to send some holiday cheer and to show our gratitude to active military personnel overseas when most of us are at home with our families,” Garner said.

Handmade greetings from local school children were included in every package.

The AT&T Veterans and AT&T Pioneers are two of more than 30 groups of AT&T employees dedicated to community service and the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The volunteers laughed and smiled as they worked together to create the care kits in November.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm in the process, and the anticipation of the soldiers’ reaction when they receive the surprise packages fuels our commitment to the initiative,” Garner said. “The gift of giving is extraordinary.

AT&T employees organized blood drives at three AT&T offices across the state; North Palm Beach, Miami and Jacksonville. The items were delivered to their Golden Bear office, and Palm Beach Garden Boy Scouts and elementary students designed the handwritten cards included in each vacation care package.

The items to be packed are lined up on a table.

Volunteers organized several fundraising events during the year that enabled them to purchase most of the items that go into the care kits. They also received donations from employees.

The ERG AT&T Veterans continued to support the local community and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, AT&T Veterans stepped in to help and continue the deployed employee’s work with a local nonprofit by making backpacks containing clothing and other essentials for homeless veterans.

With the support of local Boy Scouts, they have handed out flags to veterans at local Veterans Day events and are preparing to lay wreaths on the upcoming Wreath Day across America on Friday.

They are also active with honor thefts and building houses for heroes. They especially enjoyed preparing lunch for the families at an awards ceremony.

When Garner told the parents of the Boy Scouts about the Care Package initiative, they were very supportive.

“They appreciated the opportunity to talk to the children about the sacrifices made to serve our country and the importance of giving back and helping others,” Garner said.

Garner stressed that the project is a team effort.

“We couldn’t do what we do in our local community without the support of our organization, employee volunteers and their families,” Garner said. “I am grateful that together we can make a positive impact in our community and serve others. “