KINSMAN, Ill. — Since August 2013, Melissa Dunning of Kinsman has been on a mission to supply cookies to troops stationed with her brother, Bruce Boling, and her brother-in-law, Jason Dunning.
Jason, from South Wilmington, is in the Army National Guard and is currently on deployment in Saudi Arabia. Bruce, originally from Mazon, is in the Air Force and is currently on deployment in Afghanistan.
For years, each time they were deployed Melissa would bake cookies and her father, Les Boling, would make the care boxes and pay for the shipment.
Her father passed away a year and a half ago, and this is their first deployment since his passing. Now she is creating and sending the care packages with her children, Amanda, Alexandria and Derek.
“I’m just trying to keep up what daddy would have done,” she said.
This also is the first time her brother and brother-in-law have been deployed at the same time, so she hasn’t stopped baking for months.
She spends hours making chocolate chip, peanut butter, pumpkin chocolate chip, cutout, cinnamon sugar and no-bake cookies, and has baked close to 2,000 cookies for this deployment alone.
She buys flour and sugar in 25-pound bags, which lasts her about a month depending on what cookie she is baking.
With help from friends, she has decorated hundreds of cutout cookies. The batch going out this week took two and a half hours just to decorate.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom, thank goodness, or I wouldn’t be able to do this,” she said. “Thank God for friends who help with the decorating, my kids are over the decorating part now.”
Each time she ships out a box, she waits for an email from the men to let her know they arrived.
“I forgot to put peanut butter cookies in one box and a man serving with Bruce named John Apple commented, ‘What, no peanut butter?’ So, I sent him some in the next batch,” she said.
When that shipment arrived on Feb. 4 she got a quick response from Bruce via email.
“Wanted to let you know that the box arrived!!!... You should have seen the guys standing and waiting to see what there was. lol. The cookies are awesome!! Apple did his little happy dance because of the peanut butter cookies,” the email reads. “So after sampling them, we are all at a consensus...very good!”
She also adds to the care boxes whatever she can find at the store that they need including beef jerky, ramen noodles, Folger singles and anything else that can be microwaved, but doesn’t require refrigeration.
“They request Spam and Pop-tarts along with anything they can put in their pocket and go with [them],” Melissa said. “I also send them magazines that my husband is done reading and I pack it all in the Morris Herald so they have something to read from home.”
Bruce is due to come home just before March, depending on when his replacement arrives, but that won’t slow down the baking in Melissa’s house.
Her care packages have now begun to expand to others from the area. She has a box going out this week to Deric Punke of Mazon, who is in Japan. Her cousin’s son will be deploying in June and boxes will be sent to him, as well.
One care box ships with a $2 military discount for $14.85 and she sends at least two out at a time. An expense her father used to pay, but is now on her shoulders.
“We just make it work,” she said. “They are giving up so much, it’s the least I can do.”