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Hundreds Of Deployed Soldiers Get Care Packages From Big-Hearted Pittsburgher

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 FM WESA

There are about 150,000 men and women serving in the U.S. military overseas, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center. 

Some of them regularly receive care packages from people they have never met, through programs like Soldiers’ Angels and Chaplains Wings.

Mary Jo Magoc has been sending care packages and cards through those programs since 2009.  She began with individual soldiers through Soldiers’ Angels, where she “adopted” four members of the military deployed overseas. She keeps in touch with three of them, even though they have returned home. Among them is Chris Samuel. 

“For some reason Chris and I just connected,” Magoc said. “We emailed constantly when he was in Afghanistan.” 

“It just kind of makes your day (when you get a note or package), knowing that someone is thinking about you and they care for you,” Samuel said.

When he returned home, Samuel contacted Magoc and they eventually met face-to-face. That's when he gave his “angel” a medal he had earned overseas.

Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA
90.5 FM WESA
A care package is read to be shipped out to one of the chaplains that Mary Jo Magoc works with through Chaplains Wings.

“I can’t say that I could have mentally made it through deployment without Mary Jo,” said Samuel, who calls Magoc his second mom.

Magoc more recently has been involved with Pastors Wings. Volunteers like Magoc send packages to Pastors to give to the troops in their charge.

“What they have told me, is that many times (the soldiers) are hesitant to come and talk to the chaplain, just because they do not want to appear like they need the help,” said Magoc. But, she said the men and women might stop by the chaplain’s office to get a bag and then begin a conversation through that contact.

Over the years, Magoc has sent hundreds of cards, letters and packages to individual soldiers and hundreds more to chaplains. This past Christmas, with the help of her church, she sent 300 bags to Afghanistan.  Through her church, she has also collected socks, made custom pillowcases and stocked countless items in what one chaplain calls his “Free-X,” which is a play on the PX, where members of the military can shop of everyday items.

Here more from Mary Jo Magoc.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA
90.5 FM WESA
A room off Mary Jo Magoc's kitchen serves as a warehouse for items soon to be shipped to soldiers overseas.

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