The State Employees’ Credit Union is kicking off its fourth annual SECU Supports the Troops campaign Monday, Sept. 16. It will run through Oct. 31.

All 250 statewide branches will collect wish-list items to provide holiday care packages for North Carolina deployed soldiers.

The Credit Union’s goal is to pack 5,000 gift boxes, including travel-size toiletries, first-aid items and snacks, along with one-of-a-kind thank you cards and letters expressing words of encouragement from local school children.

Gayle Pigford, of the Roanoke Rapids’ SECU, said this is one project she’s really proud of, and she is just as proud to share this project began in N.C. through a project that started at Credit Union’s Roanoke Rapids’ office.

Because she lost her brother in Vietnam War, Pigford wanted to show appreciation for the troops at Christmas.

She had just returned from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., when she received a call from a lady in West Virginia.

It was a wrong number call but the lady insisted on telling her about what she was doing — putting together stockings for soldiers.

Pigford listened, and decided this was her answer. She got the Credit Union involved.

“We made 250 stockings that year,” she said.

Pigford said she’s hopeful local patrons and the public will participate, especially by sending letters and cards.

“We always try to get the schools to participate,” she said. “And it would be good for the churches.”

But Pigford contended everyone can afford to write a few words of appreciation and drop it by the SECU office, 161 Old Farm Road, along with a gift or a monetary donation to help with postage.

“They (soldiers) need to know they’re appreciated,” she said.

In a note of appreciation to the Credit Union after his unit received the holiday boxes last year, Air Force Master Sgt. William Crouch wrote:

“What a lift it was to a very tired group of girls and guys when all of the care packages came in after a hard day’s work. I’ve never seen so many grown-ups so excited to read the letters included in the boxes. Everyone was on cloud nine — the gift boxes were a great lift to everyone’s spirits!”

“This project certainly hits home with SECU, as our credit union serves and employs members of the N.C. National Guard and Reserves,” said Leigh Brady, SECU Executive Vice President of Organizational Development.

Brady added the project is a reflection of the caring efforts and generosity of the Credit Union’s staff, members and community supporters who want local soldiers to know they make a difference.

For more information about SECU Supports the Troops Campaign, call the Roanoke Rapids office at 252-537-0019.

— The Daily Herald reporter Della Rose contributed to this report.

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