Residents stunned by extra special thanks for parcels to Afghanistan

Bill Watterson, Anne Marie Sweeney and fellow mercy parcel donors. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Bill Watterson, Anne Marie Sweeney and fellow mercy parcel donors. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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The residents of a sheltered housing complex have received special thanks – from a soldier on the front line in Afghanistan.

A group of well-wishers at Ochilview Court in Armadale, West Lothian, have been compiling and sending mercy parcels to 1SCOTS squaddies in the war-torn region for the past year. But retired lorry driver Bill Watterson, 71, who has championed the scheme, was shocked when he received the call of thanks from 3500 miles away.

He said: “When I was told there was a call for me, I never in a million years expected it to be from one of the young men I so regularly send parcels to.

“The soldier told me that there are always squaddies queuing out the door when parcels arrive at their base. And hearing this young man on the phone, expressing his thanks, really brought home why we are doing this.” Manager Anne Marie Sweeney came up with the idea to send out gift parcels as both her brother and nephew have served in the Armed Forces.

It is hoped the packages will give the soldiers constant reminders of home.

Anne Marie said: “As my brother is a retired sergeant major, and my nephew is in the Marines, I knew just how much receiving packages meant to men serving away from home, and I thought this could be a good way to get male tenants involved in a communal activity.

“Several of those at Ochilview Court have members of their family in the forces and others know of friends and friends’ children who are in Afghanistan. The tenants jumped at the chance to take part, and their friends and families were equally enthusiastic.

“We now regularly receive donations of food and things like puzzle books from local businesses and the friends and families of tenants.”

A collection box stands in the communal area all year round, waiting until it is full before the goods are parcelled up and sent off.

Donated items include tins of soup, Sudoku books, boiled sweets and letter-writing equipment.

Around 80 boxes have been shipped to Afghanistan by Ochilview Court.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

Some of the goodies sent over by the care home residents included:

Coffee

Hot chocolate

Cup-a-Soup

Chewing gum

Garlic, salt and spices

Oxo cubes

Shake n’ Bake

Tea

Homemade blank Christmas cards

Puzzle books

Writing paper