Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 7, 2013

A Military Christmas

Nation's angels being remembered this holiday season

Chad Wilson
The Athens Review

Athens — A mother’s love has far reaching effects.

Amy Hillhouse has sent her daughter Kaylee care packages on a routine basis to provide for her basic needs.

A 2009 Martin’s Mill graduate, Kaylee Hillhouse is currently stationed in Afghanistan at Camp Leatherneck as she serves in the U.S. Navy.

With Christmas approaching, Amy thought she would send a couple more packages to a couple of Kaylee’s closest friends on the base.

When Kaylee responded with a list of 21, Amy was floored, but like most mothers she stepped into action out of love for her daughter, and our nation.

“I normally send stuff like Ritz crackers, cheese, summer sausage and other things she likes, including a lot of candy,” Amy said. “I asked her for a few names, I was thinking maybe five.”

Kaylee mentioned what her mother was doing to a roommate, Cela Sibley, who in turn wanted packages sent to a couple more friends.

Sibley, now stationed in Kandahar, added close to 10 names as the list grew from just a handful of care packages to more than 30.

“Cela sent me 10 and my daughter sent 21. I wondered how I would be able to send packages to more than 30 people and I started to become upset because I was thinking I did not want to say no to any of them,” Amy said. “I told my boss about it and he told me not to worry about it. He told me he had some friends and clients who would love to help.”

Amy’s boss Jody Lemons of Lemon’s Equipment in Brownsboro helped secure 10 people who were willing to help make Christmas a little brighter for our military.

“I am so thankful for Jim Shelton, Hugh Cariver, Lynn Bottoms, Gary Smith, Bill Basset, Red Fields, Gene Tibloto, Lee Thorton, David Miller and Rodger Smith for teaming with Lemon’s Equipment,” Amy said.

With the team coming together, Amy reached out to her sister Becky Sparks who is a teacher at  Martins Mill ISD.

Sparks talked with co-worker Wendy Brantley and the two thought this would be a great project for the Martin’s Mill Teen Leadership Class to assist with.

“Their team leadership class was looking for something to do for the holidays,” Amy said. “They decided to help so we got the 21 names from Camp Leatherneck and worked to fill boxes for them.”

Hillhouse said each box was filled with a variety of items from junk food to basic necessities like toilet paper.

Everyone received a stocking with socks, candy and more. Several of the packages were wrapped to make sure there was something special to open.

To make the packages more meaningful, Hillhouse and each of the students wrote letters to those serving overseas.

Once the 21 were spoken for, Hillhouse reached out on Facebook to find sponsors for the rest.

As of today, she has sent close to 50 packages.

“Everybody wanted to help,” she said. “The outpouring of support has been amazing.”

It costs $14.85 to ship a box through the U.S. Postal Service while Hillhouse estimates an average of $30 worth of goodies goes into each box.

Area post offices have stepped up to help with the delivery process. The Athens post office opened 30 minutes early the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to send out the 21 boxes to Afghanistan.

“I was really worried about taking away from the Angel Trees, but then I thought those are our kids that are out there and they don’t get to be home for Christmas. I could not think of any better way to help those serving our country,” Amy said.

Martin’s Mill ISD has been a big support in the project as the district’s FFA boosters, FFA officers, National Junior Honor Society and Spanish Club have all participated.

Individuals who have helped include Dwayne Grant, Anita Grant, Joe and Kris Tarrent, Crystal Williams, Theresa Rackow, Dee Mowery, DeeDee Anthony, Avril Hite, Eric and Kristi Whitaker, Amber and Tim Baskin, Melonie Bynog, Tommy Moody, Jason and DeAnna Haynes, Lisa Stephens, Annette Gaar, Kristi Perkins, Charlotte Lloyd, Jennifer Simmons, Terry Henderson, Jan McFar­land, Teresa King, Melody McCullogh, Debbie Cates, Stacey Oorick, George and Laprica Adams, Stevi Tarrazas, Marcos Rivera, and the Carpender family.