A hometown-themed care package, much like other care packages, is a great way to send fun reminders from a familiar place and keep military members connected to family, friends and their community during deployments.
This gift-giving adage – “something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read” – is a great one to keep in mind when building your care package. Just make sure the items you choose are on-theme. Tuck in photos, letters and a few other personal touches (plus an edible treat or two!) and you’ll be sure to put a smile on your soldier’s face.
Check out this guide for lots of practical information about packing and shipping your care package overseas.
If your deployed loved one is a music aficionado, consider coming up with a playlist that features songs about your town, state or the U.S. in general. Include local artists to add an extra tie-in to your community. A lover of word puzzles? Use a free online puzzle creator to build crosswords, word searches and jumbles that use words or clues related to your hometown.
For diehard sports fans, consider recording a game or two for them to watch. Even if they already know how it turns out, it can still be fun to catch up on the action. A mid-level DVD recorder sells for less than $150, but find one that doubles as a DVD player to really get your money’s worth.
Don’t be afraid to get creative, and remember that space is at a premium for many service members. Send something you know they’ll enjoy (and that you enjoy making for them)!
Look for practical items with a hometown design. The gift shop at popular local attractions (think zoos, museums or major landmarks) will almost always sell playing cards, ink pens, stationary, key chains and various other necessary items “branded” with your city’s name or logo.
A T-shirt or hat with a favorite college or professional team’s logo is a great reminder of home. If your children play on a recreational, club or school sports team, see if you can get their team shirt made in an adult size.
Consider sending a copy of a local newspaper or magazine. This is a great way to keep deployed loved ones connected to their community and provides a form of entertainment when things are slow.
Letters are also an important element of every care package. Short notes from friends, family members, neighbors and others who soldiers interacted with regularly when at home is a great way to show them that they may be gone, but not forgotten.
Food items are very popular in soldier care packages. Think of what food your city is known for – and, of course, what your deployed loved one enjoys! Choose items that will keep up to six weeks, be able to withstand intense heat and hold up during transport. If a city’s signature item is too difficult to ship, search for alternatives that evoke a similar flavor. While it won’t be exactly like the real thing, it’ll still be a nice reminder. Pizza-flavored Goldfish instead of Chicago deep dish, anyone?
If your city has no signature food item, consider sending some other taste of home. Favorite restaurants may sell a bottle of house dressing; local bakeries may be able to box up a dozen or so specialty cookies. Local BBQ sauce, salsa, honey or jam are also great options.
Want to include something homemade? Try these easy-to-make sugar cookies, which can be customized with food coloring, cookie cutters, sprinkles and other decorative elements to go with the hometown theme. Be sure to follow these four tips for sending baked goods.
Tie everything together by wrapping items in a map of your city or state (check visitors centers for free or low-cost versions). You can personalize your care package even more by marking special spots on the map with a circle, a little note or even photos of yourself, your loved one, friends and/or family taken at each location.
Photo courtesy staceyhuggins