When Julie Danielson was growing up in New York, the fifth child of immigrant parents from Italy, she said she remembers the day when her much older brother received an appointment to West Point.
"They practically had a parade in Brooklyn," she said. "That was a dream come true, to have an immigrant's son accepted to the military academy."
Pride in this country and its military were high points in her household.
"Every day, my parents would say to me, 'You're in the greatest country in the world. You can be whatever you want to be,' " Julie said. So it's probably no wonder that she married a West Point graduate and spent six years as a military wife before her husband returned to civilian life.
Her brother recently retired as a full colonel. And Julie, who retired in 2008 as a counselor at Davis High School, along with her husband, Dean, has taken over the military ministry in her parish, St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
The ministry supports parishioners serving in the military overseas, as well as encouraging their families back home. But its reach extends far beyond the church walls.
Julie said they send boxes full of goodies four times a year to military men and women stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Korea. In August, she's hoping to fill and send 800 large, flat-rate boxes, enough for an entire battalion.
"I'm working through a chaplain in Afghanistan," she said. "He had to hitch a ride to a village in Afghanistan and stand in line to get access to a computer to e-mail me. That's how hard things are there."
She knows 800 boxes is a huge goal. That's why she needs community support. It costs about $30 to fill the boxes.
"They need everything," Julie said. "They need razors, deodorant, eye drops, bandages. They're out in the field and not by a PX. They need wipes, coffee, oatmeal, toothpaste. We've had doctors and dentists who will donate things, such as contact solution and eye drops. Those are really needed; it's so hot and dusty. Even things like energy bars are good."
Folks can donate items to put in the boxes; contact Julie or Dean at 522-0887 or e-mail julielentidanielson @gmail.com for more information.
Then it costs $12.50 to mail each box. That's $10,000 for 800 boxes. If you want to donate money toward shipping the boxes or for items to fill them, make a check out to St. Joseph's Military Ministry and send it to St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 1813 Oakdale Road, Modesto 95355.
"I may not get there (800 boxes), but with the help of God and the generosity of the people in this community, I hope to," Julie said.
"Not only is it important for the soldiers, but it's important over here to raise our awareness of our God-given freedoms. We have young men and women fighting for them every day. Unless we have another 9-11, we tend to forget. When we send these boxes to the military, they know they're not forgotten. We always say, 'We're so proud of our military.' My husband and I think it's time for them to be proud of us."
Speaking of the military, John Bernier, Southern Area AmVet commander, wrote to thank a Modesto business.
"During our convention of American Veterans in Modesto on June 11-13, our van from the Barstow veterans home broke down," the commander said. "Slipes Diesel Service was called Saturday night and a technician named Mark was dispatched. He diagnosed the problem and returned Sunday to complete the work. It took him 4.5 hours. Upon completion, he would not accept any money, and instead thanked us for our service.
"We are very grateful for guys like Mark."
And in another broken-vehicle incident, Alicia Jones of Marysville said she and her family were returning home from a trip to Yosemite when they stopped in Ceres to visit other family members. When it was time to leave, her son's car alarm malfunctioned so that they couldn't turn the alarm off and couldn't start the car.
They called AAA, which sent a driver, Javier, from Ceres Pro Tow, Alicia said. "He had actually left a family barbecue to help us," she said. It was his day off.
"Javier towed the car to a shop in Modesto called Modesto Car Toys, where Carlos helped us out, even though we didn't arrive until after their 5 p.m. closing time," Alicia said. "Carlos and his co-worker, whose name I regrettably didn't get, stayed and fixed the problem for us.
"Because of the great customer service we received from these individuals, we were able to get back on the road and back home without having to return for the car the next day. Good customer service should not go unnoticed."
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 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.