In 2003, Staff Sgt. Al Negrete asked Modesto residents to send special food to his unit in Afghanistan so he could help prepare a Mexican feast for his fellow soldiers. Our community responded so well, Al and 75 other soldiers were able to make 1,200 tamales and other fixings for their holiday meal.
It was so popular that soldiers from other camps flew in to join them.
Al's unit repaid our community by donating toys for needy pre-school students in 2007, and he donated a uniform and commemorative medals in 2004 to a mentally handicapped man in Modesto with a rare genetic disorder who had expressed a desire for a uniform and flag.
The Ceres resident is serving on his third deployment, this time with B Company, 1-126th Aviation out of Stockton.
"I'm missing the holidays again," Al said in an email. "If there is anybody out there who would send us some stuff for 116 soldiers, we need snacks to keep up our energy and to keep warm."
He said there's no chance to make a big Christmas meal this year "since we will be out a lot," but he asked for coffee pods, creamers of any kind, beef sticks, small assorted chips, energy bars, "all kinds of candy," cookies, cups of instant soup and any other snack food.
The food, which can be mailed in flat-rate boxes, can be sent to SSG Negrete, Alfred; B Co, 1-126th AVN; TF, No Mercy; Salerno, Afghanistan; APO, AE 09314.
A Modesto postal worker noted that the large flat rate boxes sent to APO and FPO addresses cost $13.45, a savings of $2. And senders must fill out a postal form listing the contents of the box, a requirement meant to protect our troops.
"Please thank everyone for their support, and God bless," Al wrote.
Some Central Catholic High School students wanted to make the season brighter for others in need, so they contacted World Relief, a nonprofit ministry that helps refugees in other countries emigrate here. The students Brendan Bedolla, Amanda Mayberry, Ethan Landingham and Daniel White filled 14 baskets with items for infants and young children.
They will give the baskets to refugee families from Iraq and Burma on Friday. The students will hear the refugee families tell stories about coming to this country and how individuals in the community have helped them make the transition into their new homes.
Toni Gardali-Morgan of Modesto wrote to say that she was picking up greenery on Dec. 5 for the Hospice Tree Lighting ceremony when Chris, who runs the Christmas tree lot at Pelandale and Bangs, asked if he could donate two trees to needy Hospice families.
"His act of kindness enabled two Hospice families to have a Christmas tree for their young children to enjoy this year," Toni said, adding that his action is a "wonderful example of the true meaning of Christmas."
Do you have a story about someone who has helped others or is a terrific role model? Send a brief item to Sue Nowicki at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352 or email email@example.com.