Saline nonprofit Hearts in a Box sends a little bit of the holidays to military members overseas

 11/11/2017 - 21:12
Heart in a Box volunteers making up packages for military members overseas
Heart in a Box volunteers make packages for military members overseas, including these candy-filled "Christmas Crackers."

Sheryl Taritas and her family know they are lucky and wanted to give something back to the community, and that's how the nonprofit Hearts in a Box was created.

Taritas and her family had been throwing parties and feeding friends every year for more than a decade when they decided to add a charitable component, asking friends to donate money for a good cause during the parties, with some of the funds going to Food Gatherers. Then, a friend's son joined the military and suggested that they add something for the troops to their charitable efforts.

From that day, volunteers gathered in the Taritas basement and started stuffing care packages for troops overseas, and the charity was formalized as a nonprofit in 2015. The nonprofit went from sending 10 boxes the first year to 180  in 2016, and volunteers hope to send out 200 this year.

Taritas says that troops ask for all kinds of items, from snacks to magazines to toothbrushes, but candy is popular. Last year, she learned about the tradition of candy-filled "Christmas crackers" in England and started wrapping colorful tubes full of candy to be included in the care packages.

Female military members aren't left out, either.

"We make up what we call "girly bags" for women soldiers," Taritas says. "We include things like soap, shampoo, conditioner, and feminine products, in little bags, so they can carry them around, but not out in the open."

Making it even more of a community project, Taritas has enlisted several school classrooms to write letters and make cars for the troops, and those are included in the packages as well.

To help the charity reach their goal of sending out 200 packages to the troops this year, Brewed Awakenings Cafe has joined with two local LuLaRoe representatives to run a charity fundraiser on Veterans Day, Saturday, Nov. 11. Between 3 and 5 p.m., both the cafe and the clothing business will donate 20 percent of their proceeds to Hearts in a Box.

Sarah Rigg
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in southeast Michigan. She has worked in community journalism for over 20 years covering education, business, arts & culture and other topics as a reporter, with experience in copy editing, layout, and proofreading.