By Julia Ledoux, Special correspondentApril 29, 2011
FORT BELVOIR, Va. - The USO warehouse on Fort Belvoir was alive with children's laughter and ringing bells April 21 during the organization's third annual children's stuffing party hosted by Operation USO Care Package.
"I know what it feels like to receive something on the far end," said "K" Holland, who retired from the Air Force and now works at the Defense Logistics Agency on Belvoir. "It makes all the difference."
The kids stuffed care packages with personal-care products; snacks; pre-paid, international calling cards; and entertainment items for servicemembers participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and others serving around the world.
Bells rang out each time volunteers loaded a pallet full of cardboard boxes containing the care packages.
Lexi Fincannon, 5, whose dad is a Marine stationed at Quantico, made friends with Hollands's daughter, Kabria, 9. The two girls worked side-by-side, sharing giggles as they stuffed packages.
"We've never done anything like this before," said Lexi's mom, Nikki, whose husband has been deployed twice.
The Fincannons learned about the event through an e-mail from their unit's family readiness officer.
"I had to do it," said Lexi. "I had to come."
Army spouse Tara Carlson brought her children, including her son, Ryan, 3; as well as her sister and her sister's children with her to the event.
"Their dad just got back from Iraq on Monday," said Carlson as she watched the children write thank-you cards to the troops, "So, this is pretty meaningful for them."
Carlson's sister, Kristen Bergen of Centreville, Va., added their father is a retired Marine.
"We hold the military near and dear," she said.
Bergen's daughter, Maura Aschenbrenner, not only sang the National Anthem to open the party, but also stuffed packages.
"I like helping people," she said. "Just being here is another way of helping people.
Fort Belvoir resident Cassie Bonnette and her three children, Evan, 10; Aurora, 13; and Tyler, 7; were also among the dozens of volunteers.
"I wanted the kids to learn how to volunteer," she said.
Tyler said he's ready to stuff even more packages.
"I'll volunteer again," he said.
Bonnette also lauded the USO for providing the youngsters with a way to give back.
"How nice of them to do this for the kids," she said.
Also volunteering at the event was Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rachel Davis, who has temporary orders to the area from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.
"While I was here, I heard about it so I'm helping out," she said.
Davis and Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Terrence Murchison assembled dozens of cardboard boxes during the event.
"I like to help people," added Murchison.
The kids also had the opportunity to make American flags and flower pens during the event.