PADUCAH — The Hugs Project of Western Kentucky is making 500 Christmas care packages for service members deployed overseas.
Hugs Project President Gayron Ferguson said it all started 11 years ago when he made some care packages for his son and his son’s friends who were serving in Iraq. Ferguson was inspired to continue making care packages, and with volunteers, they’ve made more than 45,000 packages that have been sent to more than 12,500 service members.
“There was such a need for the morale boost and the support that they needed that I just couldn’t quit,” said Ferguson. “I never expected it to get this large. I never expected it to have the impact that it’s had. But here it is.”
Each care package includes hygiene products — such as soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste — as well as magazines, canned food, snacks, and even toys for service members to give to the children they meet in the Middle East. The care packages may also include messages of support from people back home.
“We want to make sure they know we appreciate what they’re going through. That’s not exactly a vacation spot,” said Ferguson.
Army veteran Jeff Curd received several care packages from The Hugs Project while he was serving in Afghanistan.
“You see a lot of things over there, just even the way people live. There’s so much abject poverty, and you get back and you open up something, and there’s all these little niceties in there. It’s heartwarming,” said Curd.
The packages help service members deployed in the Middle East cope with spending the holidays so far from family.
“Some of these kids, it might actually be their first Christmas day spent away from home. And it kind of tears at them. I know. It kind of tore me,” Curd said.
Ferguson says it will cost more than $14,000 to fill the 500 Christmas care packages, plus another $6,425 to ship them. The Hugs Project of Western Kentucky relies on contributions from the community to make it all possible. If you’d like to help, you can:
— Visit thehugsprojectofwky.com, and click the “Donate” button.
— Mail a check to The Hugs Project of Western Kentucky, 4931 Epperson Road, Paducah, KY 42003.
— Visit any Paducah Bank location and donate to The Hugs Project account.
— Follow the nonprofit’s Facebook page for updates on fundraisers and how to volunteer.
— Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students from several local high schools will also be pitching in, including members of the Navy Junior ROTC from Paducah Tilghman High School, who helped pack some of the care packages Monday evening.