Fayetteville, N.C. — An Apex minister provided hundreds of military spouses with early Christmas gifts on Tuesday.
The nonprofit Support Military Spouses handed out 1,380 shoeboxes filled with greetings written by area children, New Testaments with highlighted verses, scarves, watches, lotions and other items to families gathered at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville. Some of the items were donated by corporate sponsors, including Walmart and Chick-Fil-A.
Catherine Owens pulled a card from her box that said "Happy Christmas" in a youngster's scrawl.
"I don't know who it's from, but this means just as much to me as my kids' cards do," Owens said.
Support Military Spouses is run by Rev. Steven Rumley, pastor of Potter's Hand Bible Church in Apex, and his wife, Diane.
"I really applaud you for what you do," Steven Rumley told the crowd.
"Organizations such as these that support us, I'm sorry, they bring tears to our eyes because we don't get that. We don't get that support very often at all, Army wife Rachel Leinbach said. "We are the (unsung) heroes at home."
Army wife Lauren Allen, whose husband was deployed for the first time this year, leaving her alone with 16-month-old Kourtney, echoed that sentiment.
"When you're alone and it's just you there, just reading simple things like Bible verses really helps you build your morale," Allen said. "Having a toddler and him not being there, it was very difficult. Everything that could have happened, happened."
Whitney Barr said her husband lost a couple of his friends in action last year, and her friend lost a husband.
"She really is an inspiration to me, and I hope I can use this as a recharging point," said Barr, who is bringing up 9-month-old Kaylee and 2-year-old Camille, while her husband is away.
"A lot of people ask you, 'How do you do it?' One day at a time," Leinbach said.