Care-package coordinator receives honor
THOMASBORO – Ask Ruby Splittstoesser what she would do if she won the lottery, and she wouldn't blink before telling you she would spend it on troops overseas.
Many people might give a similar answer, but it's not difficult to believe Splittstoesser. She spends a great deal of her time and money on care packages for members of the military.
Splittstoesser estimates she has sent 400 care packages overseas since 2003.
And people have taken notice.
Splittstoesser has received several awards for her work, including one from President George W. Bush.
The village of Thomasboro has installed a sign bearing her name next to Heartland Cleaners, owned and operated by Splittstoesser and her husband, Dan. The sign is the same as those that village officials have put up honoring members of the military from the community.
Thomasboro Mayor Harold Hough said the sign honors Splittstoesser because she has done so much for those serving in Iraq.
"We just wanted to show support for our military services," Hough said. "There's enough negative going on about (the war in Iraq) as it is."
Splittstoesser counts the American Soldier Defender of Freedom Award as her favorite recognition. That, she said, is because the 43 members of her daughter's National Guard unit voted to give it to her.
She started the care-package effort, she said, because so many people said the U.S. shouldn't go into Iraq, and to show her support for the soldiers.
"For every person who said a negative word, I sent a package," Splittstoesser said.
The Splittstoessers' daughter, Tammy, served a year in Afghanistan in 2005 as part of the Army National Guard's 132nd Support Batallion out of Janesville, Wis.
The care packages include items like canned hams, cheese and crackers, toothpaste and other toiletries. Around Christmas, she adds fudge.
She tailors each package to whether a male or female will receive it.
For her daughter's battalion, she sent items such as birthday supplies, cards, streamers and other materials soldiers don't have access to.
Some of the more unique items she has sent include a Budweiser sign, which her husband spied ready for the trash while driving through Champaign-Urbana, and a swimming pool, something that comes in quite handy in the arid conditions of the Middle East.
"Our female soldiers take care of the Afghan kids," she said, so she tries to include things such as Beanie Babies in their packages.
Items such as diaper wipes are also useful as soldiers don't get a lot of baths.
A fundraiser held Oct. 7 at Central Tap in Thomasboro raised $600 to fund Splittstoesser's care-package efforts.
Members of her church, St. Matthew Lutheran in Urbana, also frequently donate care-package items.
Each package must be addressed to a specific member of the military.
"Anyone who gives me the name of a soldier, I will send him or her a package," Splittstoesser said. "I could use the names of new troops because a lot of them are coming home."
Through Splittstoesser's efforts, 800 Christmas cards were sent to the troops last season. She has a goal of sending 1,000 this year.
It might be a lot of work, but Splittstoesser said she gets as much out of it as the troops do.
"All this makes your heart feel good."