COOKIES FOR A CAUSE
Clara Miller stands amongst care packages and assorted goodies waiting to be mailed to Soldiers serving in a remote area of Afghanistan this Christmas.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Clara Miller wears her patriotic heart proudly on her sleeve.
Miller's love of country emanates from all corners of her Huntsville home, from the "Support Our Troops" flag on her front porch, to the picture frames that decorate her living room walls, and even the man she shares that home with, husband Dwayne who served in Vietnam. But up the stairs, last door on the right, lies Miller's paramount of patriotism - her Soldier's room.

A heavy whiff of peppermints, faintly reminiscent of Christmas, greets Miller as she enters the room that shelves the items that fuel her life passion. Nuts, ramen noodles, magazines, candy, toothpaste, Avon foot cream and countless other items fill the room, some in boxes, others waiting to be picked and packaged, all destined for a U.S. Soldier serving in Afghanistan.

"I just want them to know that somebody back home is thinking of them and what they're doing every day," Miller said. "It can't be easy and it can't be pleasant."

It all began when Miller's own son was deployed to Iraq in November 2005, and the mother of four started sending him care packages. At his request, she sent more for his company, and soon began collecting names and addresses of Soldiers Tennessee Valley residents knew were serving overseas. From there, the outreach spread like wildfire. Over the past five years, Miller has sent nearly 1,000 care packages to U.S. men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There's a lot of Soldiers that don't get a thing from their family. It just tears me up," Miller said.

This year, Miller's quilting group at University Baptist Church, who has assisted her in her outreach since the early days, added a new spin on the care packages by doing more than just collecting goodies for the troops, but actually baking them. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar and oatmeal cookies have made the journey into a war zone, in addition to other tasty treats like banana bread. Miller's freezers are filled to the brim with the baked goods, with the occasional dozen or more still being dropped off at her doorstep.

"It does my heart good to know people care," Miller said of the donations, whether they be baked, monetary or otherwise. "I always appreciate anything people want to do for the Soldier. It's really neat."

But the bottom line for Miller isn't the volume of packages she sends out, and certainly not any notoriety she has gained from it -- "all I am is the person that puts the things in the boxes and takes them to the post office," Miller humbly says -- but rather, exhibiting the care and concern that our Soldiers deserve.

"I just feel like we don't care about them enough," Miller said. "And I know every one of them over there, they suffer. Every one of them comes home wounded. We need to care about them. I know we can't afford it probably, but we need to ... It's just a mission and I've got to do it. I've got to do it."

While she, with the help of her quilting group, has mailed out 40 boxes in the past three weeks, Miller's work is never done. Thirty-six names, 30 of which are from a local Reserve unit, are set to receive a care package this December, part of a revolving list Miller keeps. On average, Miller takes 15 care packages, give or take, to the post office on Wynn Drive, where she is known by both name and mission.

"It's a lot of fun," said Miller, who feels a grandmotherly connection to the men and women she mails packages to. "I get a motherly satisfaction out of it."

Since an article published about Miller's outreach was printed in The Huntsville Times Oct. 23, the outpouring of support from the community has overwhelmed Miller and her room of Soldier goodies. She continues to accept monetary donations to assist in postage expenses, as well as other donations for the care packages, and the names and addresses of Soldiers serving overseas that could one day be the recipient of such a care package.

"The blessings have just been flying in from everywhere for the Soldiers," Miller said.

Page last updated Wed November 17th, 2010 at 09:44