Greater Tulsa Reporter
PACKAGES OF LOVE: From left, Janet Viel, president of the Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers of America; Susan Thesenvitz, communications and public relations officer; and financial secretary Patsy Adams display one of the chapter’s care packages to be sent to deployed U.S. soldiers.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
When the Owasso Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers of America dissolved in 2015, the Owasso area was split up between the organization’s Rogers County and Broken Arrow chapters.
Since that time, though, the Owasso community has not slowed down in its generous giving to our country’s servicemen and women, says Susan Thesenvitz, communications and public relations officer for the Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers.
The Blue Star Mothers focuses its efforts on supporting soldiers who are overseas as well as providing aid to local veterans in need.
Thesenvitz joined Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers in 2009. Her son, Greg, served in the National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
Perhaps Blue Star Mothers is most well known for its care packages – shipping boxes filled with supplies – sent to deployed soldiers. The Broken Arrow chapter ships at least 100 boxes overseas each month. In 2016, the chapter sent just over 1,500 boxes.
However, the organization’s efforts reach much farther than that, says Thesenvitz.
“Any time that a military-related organization comes to us with a need, we try to help. We help at the vet centers, at the Coffee Bunker. We help families who have children in the military,” she says.
To fund its endeavors, the chapter holds regular fundraising events, roughly one per month, such as selling baked goods, asking for donations at Walmart or partnering with local businesses.
Individuals can support the organization through donations, whether that be monetary, items for the care packages or their time, Thesenvitz says.
“We receive help from Eagle Scouts, Girl Scouts, students, area businesses,” says Chapter President Janet Viel.
“We also have classes of school students that will draw pictures on the boxes that we send to the soldiers,” Thesenvitz adds.
During the Christmas season, the chapter increases its care package efforts, sending three boxes to each soldier, one for the soldier to keep and two to give away to foreign servicemen and women who are also on active duty.
“We get letters that will make you cry from foreign soldiers, thanking us, saying that their country doesn’t send them anything,” says Thesenvitz.
Items that the chapter is currently requesting include canned soup, canned pasta, breakfast bars, individual coffee or tea bags, baby wipes, band-aids, hand warmers, sunglasses, cough drops, toothbrushes, mouthwash, ziplock bags and socks. For a full list, visit babluestar.org.
The boxes may also include comics, magazines, books, cards, letters, drawings from students and stationery for writing to their families.
“When you think about the fact that they’re in these foreign countries, away from so many things that they’re familiar with,” says Viel. “These things bring soldiers a taste of home.”
“My son would be away from his base with his unit for weeks on the road, checking roadside bombs, and they would load as many of our care packages as they could in the vehicle to use during that time,” says Thesenvitz.
“Baby wipes, socks and drink mixes were three of his favorite things,” she continues. “Those things made a huge difference in his life.”
In March, the membership will sell butter braid pastries in a variety of flavors. The pastries are available for purchase on the chapter’s website or through a chapter member.
A few times per year, the B.A. chapter will spend a morning outside of a Walmart Supercenter or Neighborhood Market location with a list of needed supplies for its shipping boxes. “Sometimes shoppers will stop and make a monetary donation, but many times they will buy one of the items for us in Walmart and then donate it to us,” Thesenvitz says.
“We’ve filled our vehicles full of items donated, especially when we are in Owasso,” she continues. “They are so generous.”
The chapter also regularly partners with area restaurants to receive a portion of proceeds on a specified day.
On April 18, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Raising Cane’s, 13301 E. 96th St. N., will donate 15 percent of its sales to the chapter. However, in order for the chapter to receive a portion from an individual sale, customers must mention the Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers.
Although the Blue Star Mothers’ mission is focused on its soldiers and veterans, another group is also largely benefited, notes Thesenvitz.
“When my son joined, I had no idea the amount of support that I would need,” she says. “You’re around women who know what you’re going through.
“Blue Star Mothers saved my life.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Broken Arrow Blue Star Mothers can visit babluestar.org or call 918-259-9479.
The group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at its Broken Arrow office, 905 S. 9th St., Suite C.
Its office is open to the public on Tuesday 4-8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.