Residents pull together to support soldiers

Argen Duncan

For the sake of soldiers they had never met, Portales community members collected enough personal supplies to fill 94 boxes, plus about $1,300 to mail them.

At the beginning of November, City Councilor and Portales Municipal Schools Purchasing Agent Dianne Parker collected supplies for her nephew, U.S. Army Sgt. Albert Castinado, and his unit, who were deployed to Afghanistan in late October. Upon arriving, the soldiers found the blankets and pillows, hygiene supplies, movies, family pictures and so forth they had sent ahead had been stolen.

In a letter, Castinado, a 24-year-old intelligence analyst, said the support from Portales and other communities helped “on an unimaginable level.”

“No words of mine can thank you enough for that,” he wrote. “Each package that arrives each day brings more joy, relief, comfort and happiness than words can express.”

Without the supplies they packed, the soldiers had asked their families for help. When Parker learned of the problem, she asked school district employees to contribute and then extended the supplies drive to the community.

Parker said people left items on her doorstep and donated money for postage, and teachers called her to say their students wanted to collect supplies.

“There was just an outpour from all different directions, and people wanted to help, and it was great,” Parker said.

For example, Lindsey-Steiner Elementary School teachers Cindy Stone and Amy Lovett organized collections of supplies and money.

Stone, a Navy veteran, said they sent a letter to parents requesting supplies, and seventh-period classes competed to see which could contribute the most. In three school days, students brought 400 items, and Stone’s class won the competition with 132 items.

“It’s amazing how these kids just pull together and support things like that,” she said.

Also, Lindsey-Steiner teachers collected $100 for postage.

Stone said she wanted to help because she thinks American citizens owe a lot to the military. She also said she thinks it’s important for students to understand and appreciate the cost of freedom and what military personnel give up to serve.

“They’re sacrificing themselves even though we didn’t ask them to,” she said.

Parker said she sent the last of the 94 packages Nov. 22. Along with hygiene items and bedding, the boxes contained hand-written notes and such things as books and crossword puzzles.

Once Castinado’s unit had all the supplies they needed, Parker said, they were going to allow other units to take what they needed from what was left.

Parker said she appreciated the support from Portales.

“They’re such a giving, helping community,” she said.