The 85 veterans living in nursing homes in Jackson County will receive a little extra holiday cheer this year thanks to the efforts of a small group of people.

It’s a project that has special meaning for everyone involved but more so for the families of veterans.

“More people need to know about the service they do,” said Margaret Smith of Seymour. “The disabled — the ones who come home with no legs and such — we need to think more of them.”

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On Tuesday night, Smith and her husband, John Smith, joined about a dozen other volunteers at Spurgeon Funeral Home in Brownstown. Their goal was to put together care packages consisting of items such as shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, adult wipes, socks, bar soap, liquid soap, throws, sweatpants, notepads and puzzle books.

Margaret Smith said they decided to participate in the project in part because her father, Howard E. Owen, was a World War II veteran. Her dad was a resident of Seymour Place when he passed away May 21, 2014, at age 96.

The Smiths became involved in the project three or four years ago after meeting Judy and Wayne Gilbert of Brownstown. Wayne Gilbert started the program five years ago.

The Gilberts pretty much funded the project the first year by themselves, Judy Gilbert said.

“It all went in a really, really tiny sack, and then some people found out what we were doing and said, ‘Let us help you,’” she said. “It kind of mushroomed from there.”

Members of the Seymour Elks Club became involved because Wayne Gilbert is a member. Other volunteers, including some from the Brownstown Exchange Club, have since joined the project.

After that first year, friends of the Gilberts and many organizations and individuals have donated items or money for the care packages.

“It’s worked out really well,” Judy Gilbert said.

Gilbert said in November, she started gathering names of veterans from the four nursing homes in Seymour — Covered Bridge Health Campus, Seymour Place, Seymour Crossing and Lutheran Community Home — and Hoosier Christian Village in Brownstown.

“We have a lot of veterans, and it keeps going up,” Gilbert said. “Last year, we had 65. We thought that was huge.”

It doesn’t take long to put the care packages together, and then members of the group delivered them to the nursing homes.

Besides the Gilberts and Smiths, there are about a dozen or so other volunteers involved in the project each year.

Luke Nolting, who works for Larry Spurgeon at Spurgeon Funeral Home, became involved in the program a year ago. Spurgeon is an Elks Club member and offers space at the funeral home to put the care packages together.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Nolting, who is one of the younger people involved.

“He lifted everything,” Gilbert said.

Nolting said it’s exciting to be able to help local veterans at Christmastime.

How to help

For information, call 812-358-3141

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.