VANCEBURG -- A Lewis County native is once again encouraging everyone to help soldiers who are deployed overseas.

Kathy Hewitt was born and raised in Vanceburg. She graduated from Lewis County High School in 1979 and moved to Florida in 1985.

In 2010, she began sending packages to soldiers, after she discovered her nephew, Josh, was deployed to an area of Afghanistan that was outside the reach of places where soldiers could purchase items such as food and toiletries.

Hewitt said she and family members would ask Josh what he needed, but he would never tell them, instead saying he was fine with what he had.

"We knew he needed things," Hewitt said. "He was on a base 5,000 feet in the mountains and there was no place to buy anything he needed. Since he wouldn't tell us what he needed, my sister and I did some research and found that a lot of soldiers are in the same predicament. I also found ways to send packages to soldiers who needed them."

Hewitt said she began putting together packages to send to her nephew, whom she knew would share with other soldiers on the base.

A year later, in 2011, she founded the organization, Just Our Soldier's Helpers, or JOSH, in honor of her nephew. The organization is committed to sending packages to soldiers overseas.

"He was the reason we began sending the packages," she said. "He has since been medically discharged from the military and has helped with the organization."

Hewitt said Josh has worked with the organization by sitting on the board and working as a consultant on what soldiers need while deployed.

"He helps us to decide what to send overseas," she said. "He was deployed in one of the worst areas of Afghanistan, so he knows what soldiers need when they're out in the field."

Some of the current needs of the organization include beef jerky, ground coffee, Mio water flavors, granola bars and other snacks. Monetary donations can also be made to the organization, according to Hewitt.

"We are pretty picky about what hygiene items we ship, so I usually don't ask for those donations," she said.

Hewitt said the organization is also in desperate need of a facility in order to be able to grow the program.

"We really need a facility, but that would take a miracle," she said. "We are hoping to find a facility in 2018 so we can pack the boxes in the same location. Right now, we use up to six vehicles to transport supplies back and forth from homes used for storage to packing facilities to the post office."

Hewitt said the JOSH program isn't just about what is in the packages, but about sending a reminder to the soldiers that people are thinking about them.

"Our soldiers don't care so much about what is inside the box as they do about receiving a reminder that people back home, even complete strangers, are thinking about them and appreciating them."

Anyone interested in donating or knows of a soldier in need, can contact Hewitt at kathy@joshsupport.org or find the contact form at http://www.justoursoldiershelpers.org.

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