CAMP AL ASAD, Iraq -- Mail call at Regimental Combat Team 7 was a little bit different recently, thanks to a women's church group back home.
Supporters from New Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Vacaville, Calif. and its residents sent 360 care packages to troops at RCT-7. It was a home-grown initiative started to support the Marines deployed to Iraq's western deserts.
The church has a women's club, which consists of military wives, mothers who have sons and daughters in Iraq and friends who are also serving in the military.
"We want them to know and understand that we as mothers, wives, and family members that we love and have them in our minds and hearts everyday," said Le Dawn Evans, 45, from Guinda, Calif.
Cpl. Roderick Totton, a 29-year old supply warehouse noncommissioned officer-in-charge with RCT-7 from Detroit, was selected to receive and distribute the packages.
"The group decided to choose my son to send packages to. That made me feel really blessed," Evans said. "We made announcements through the church and the members donated shoe boxes filled with items from a list my son sent to me."
The local hometown news and local newspaper also helped spread the information.
"It made me feel good they got involved and that they did it for our military," Evans said.
The church group and its members along with the hometown residents filled the boxes with cameras, hygiene items, snacks, compact discs and movies.
For some, the packages arrived at a good time. Some Marines from 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment lost all their belongings in a fire just a few days ago and the packages were a relief for them.
"I feel happy right now," said Lance Cpl. Yzaguirre D. Washington, 28, from Temple, Texas and a motor transportation operator with the battalion. "Especially after losing everything in the fire. The church came to us in the right time. It's really a blessing. Thank God we have people looking out for us."
For others, it felt like Christmas in the summer time.
"I feel like a Santa Claus," Totton said. "I have to make sure everyone gets a gift, especially those Marines who never receive mail out here."
Totton announced the news in early morning formations, chow hall, section heads, mail room, and Marines he ran into just about anywhere.
"It's a good feeling to know that people back in the states support us this way and makes it easier to do our job and makes it worth the risk," said Cpl. James R. Church, 26, from Moscow, Idaho, and a supply administration operations clerk with Headquarters Company. "People will actually take time out to send us packages."
According to Church, his mom did the same thing as Totton's mom and a lot of businesses were involved.
"We received a lot of organizational support," Church said, "They have to stop their everyday routine just to do this for us."
Evans said the church would continue to select troops and send care packages in support of deployed Marines.
"We also hope other churches and organizations catch on and do the same thing," Evans said.
"I feel privileged about this for the simple reason that my mom is a part of it, and people gave us all the support," Totton added. "For people to do this makes us feel good."