It’s been said that silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone.
Tell that to Danie Huffman, public information officer for the Parker County’s Sheriff’s office, and she would agree. In a few short weeks she, and a team of volunteers, have pulled off an “expression of gratitude” that will be remembered for a lifetime. In the coming days soldiers with the Army 10th Mountain Division, currently stationed in Afghanistan, will be receiving 118 boxes of goodies - one for each soldier - plus an additional items placed in several large “community boxes” to share amongst the group.
It all began when Anthony Bilbay, Patrol Captain with the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, sent out a message to his law enforcement family. He said he was sending a care package to his son Spencer, and that if anyone wanted to include a word of encouragement, the more the merrier.
Hearing word of what her Captain was asking, Huffman thought why stop there? How about care packages for his entire company?
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The idea became an all-out mission when she discovered how many soldiers either had no family, or they simply had no financial means to have a package delivered to their loved one.
She said being a mom, she could see Spencer opening his gift and some in his company watching him, thinking “I don’t have any family, or I’ll never receive anything.” She needed little more motivation than that.
“I started this project because I learned there were many soldiers in Spencer’s company who did not have family or a support system,” Huffman said. “It was a collaborative effort which made this project successful. Now these soldiers can say they have an entire county of supporters.”
She said each soldier will receive a box filled with items to let them know Parker County is thinking of them and praying for them.
“When each soldier opens their box, they will find a letter or picture drawn by a student from Ikard or Austin Elementary School,” Huffman said. “Each soldier will also receive a hand-written letter of encouragement in their box from a stranger, which was my personal goal.”
She said she wanted to let each person involved in “Operation Spencer & Company” know their contribution is boosting the morale of “our soldiers.”
“That’s a wonderful project to be a part of,” she said. “Parker County came through once again, proving we live in the best county, in the best state, and in the best country in the world.”
Huffman said she had to hold back her tears when the first donation, from the Parker County Gold Star Families, was given. Kaye Jordan, mother to Austin Staggs, 19, who was killed in action on Nov. 29, 2010, brought the items.
She said on several occasions an anonymous donor made several large contributions.
“He came to the Sheriff’s Office, at least four times, to drop off items he ordered from Amazon,” Huffman said. “I was obviously thrilled, and one of my co-workers said, ‘What you’re doing is truly amazing.’ He said, ‘No, what [the soldiers] are doing is amazing.”’
Huffman said while presenting the project and its needs to the Bush Legacy Republican Women’s group, Judge Craig Towson stood up and challenged those in attendance, to match his donation - and they did.
“I was so excited,” she said. “This group raised more than half of the shipping costs. I was rushed to be on the other side of the county and was unable to count the donations raised immediately. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered later they had raised $1,814 from their group alone.”
On another occasion, Huffman said a very sweet woman approached her at her office about the project.
“She held out her hand and gave me a cash donation,” she said. “She said she remembered Spencer had mowed her lawn as a teenager when she was physically unable to, and she wanted to repay him for his kindness.”
Huffman said the gesture, “moved her.”
“Gratitude cannot be summed in words,” Huffman added. “I truly believe in the ‘pay it forward’ philosophy. Giving of yourself is the only way someone can appreciate the act itself. My faith in humanity is restored each time I look around our wonderful county.”
She said in fact the drive-netted more than they needed so the remaining items will be donated to another PCSO employee’s son who is currently deployed.
“We are very grateful to live in a community where people step up and help out a total stranger,” Anthony Bilbay said. “We live in a community that cares to give of their time and sacrifices for others. That’s why we chose to live in Parker County.”
His wife Toybeth said she was moved by the generosity of others.
“It touched our hearts that Danie initiated the project for Spencer and his company,” she said. “Then complete strangers donated who didn’t even know us. We want to thank each person who went out of their way to take the time and donate goods and money to pay for postage, but how do we express our gratitude to each person? What words would be adequate?”
She said to know there are local people supporting our troops, so the guys don’t forget why they enlisted, is overwhelming.
“When the soldiers stationed with Spencer open these boxes, they will know what it’s like to belong to a small town that cares about our troops so much,” she said. “ Spencer has always wanted to do great things, and what he and his company are doing is great. To know there are people who will recognize these young men and women for their sacrifice is a just beautiful thing.”
Our major contributors to the project include:
▪ Hudson Oaks and Weatherford Wal Mart
▪ Cub Scout Pack #76
▪ Parker County employees
▪ Gardens of Weatherford
▪ Priced Right Signs
▪ American Outcomes Management, L.P.
▪ Crest Structures
▪ Bush Legacy Republican Women of Weatherford and Zan Prince
▪ Weatherford OB/GYN
▪ Dr. Gregory Schwartz
▪ Dr. Mark Edison
▪ Ikard and Austin Elementary students
▪ US Post Office, Weatherford
▪ VFW Post # 4746
▪ Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler
▪ Citizens of Parker County
▪ A special thank you to Parker County Gold Star Families and Kaye Jordan