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What is a Care Package?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A care package is a package of food and goods which the recipient has difficulty obtaining at his or her location. The term most often appears in the context of packages sent to deployed members of the military, students away at college, and kids in summer camp. The goal is to make the recipient's life a bit more pleasant by providing both vital necessities and comfort, along with a kind word and a breath of home.

The term has its origins in CARE, an organization which was founded in 1945 to help restore nations battered by the Second World War. CARE sent millions of packages to war-torn Europe with urgent supplies like food, clothing, and medications along with books, toys, and other more recreational items. The mission of CARE has shifted to poverty relief, but the idea of a care package endures.

For people in the military, a care package can make a major difference. Many soldiers have difficulty accessing basic supplies such as soap, razors, toiletries, calling cards, toilet paper, non-prescription medication, socks, and supplementary food supplies. They also miss goods which are readily available at home, ranging from magazines to home-made cookies. A care package for a soldier typically includes a balanced mixture of necessary items and frivolities to make his or her deployment more pleasant.

For kids away from home, a care package can make the child feel less isolated and alone. Cookies from home might be sent along with office supplies, clothing for changing weather, and other goodies. Especially when students first start going to college, receiving care packages is an important part of life, bridging the gap between new and old lives. For children at camp, receiving a care package makes life at camp more fun, and enhances interest in mail call.

As a general rule, a care package contains a personal letter as well as a stack of goodies. The letter is an important part of the care package, since it reminds the recipient emotionally as well as tangibly that someone cares about him or her. The contents of the letter are usually kept light, with information about humorous events at home, along with other things which might be of interest to the recipient, such as sports scores, the health of other family members, or photographs of beloved pets.

The United Service Organizations sponsors a program called USO Cares, which sends care packages to deployed soldiers. People who are interested in participating can contact the USO, which gladly accepts donations of cash, goods, and personal letters for soldiers who might not be receiving mail from home.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By OceanSwimmer — On Jan 14, 2011

@calabama71: Another good idea for a college student’s care package is to send toiletry items. That way, they can save their money. Things such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and shaving items are good ideas. You can also find out what stores or restaurants are near their campus and purchase them a gift card.

You can pack all of the items in a plastic storage container that they can use. You can also send hard candy and gum. You could also add a deck of cards, stamps, stationery, or a pack of CD’s.

By cmsmith10 — On Jan 11, 2011

@calabama71: I remember being a college student and looking forward to care packages from my mom. They are really great if you are attending college far away from home. It’s kind of like getting a little piece of home every time you receive a care package.

Food is always a must for a college student. Any kind of nonperishable food item such as noodles, snacks, breakfast bars, or coffee are great ideas. Recent photos of the family are always a hit, as well. You can even do digital photos and upload them to a jump drive and send that to your son.

By calabama71 — On Jan 09, 2011

My oldest son started college this year. I don't know if it's worse on me or on him. My sister and I are getting ready to send him a care package and I'm looking for some suggestions on what to put in it. Any ideas?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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