ARGENTA, Ill. (WCIA) – When you’re shipped across the world to serve your country, it’s easy to miss the little things you might have taken for granted before.

That’s why one woman in Our Town Argenta wants to ship these care packages, that she likes to call soldier freedom boxes.

Several times a year, Nancy Conway and her small army of volunteers gather all the knick-knacks and do-dads they can find, and pack boxes to the brim.
“I started doing this back in 2004,” said Conway. “I had a son-in-law deployed to Afghanistan right at the beginning.”

She thought…sure, I’ll send him a few things. Little did she know those few things would turn into many things, over many years.

“I think we’ve sent a total of 28 boxes…names, from Argenta alone. So it’s just one of those things that just kind of snowballed, and I enjoy it,” said Conway.

The goal is to fill these boxes with love, either with things that remind them of home, or things that they could really use.

She puts her pals to work stacking and packing anything from toothbrushes and toothpaste, to decks of cards, to condiments, and this time around…little American flags just in time for Memorial Day.

Some of her volunteers, like Vietnam war veteran Dennis Heinz, know how much the small stuff means.

“I just like helping out. Everybody needs something from home,” said Heinz. That’s why he keeps coming back. “She tells me how many boxes we’ve got to make up. I get the bottoms all taped together.”

When the boxes are shipped out, sometimes Nancy will get something back…notes that remind her how her work puts the “care” in care package.

“He said ‘the next time you need one, would it be okay if I ask you to mail it to my brother instead of me? He needs it worse.’ You get letters like that, that are really kind of tear-jerkers,” said Conway.

That’s why she’s kept this tradition going strong for the past 15 years, in Our Town Argenta.

“It’s just amazing,” said Conway. “Not only do you learn history, you learn geography. You gain friends…friends here, and friends in the military too.”