NORTH CANTON  The Blue Star Mothers of America members all know what it’s like to have a loved one deployed in the United States Armed Services. They know the hardship the soldiers endure while putting their own lives at risk to serve others.

They know it because they have or have had loved ones in the same situation.

There are 4,500 to 5,000 members nationwide who support the troops, veterans and each other within the organization and in the community. The local chapter, Blue Star Mothers of America Ohio Chapter No. 2, has 75 members and serves the Akron-Canton area. It meets the first Tuesday of every month at DeHoff Realtors, 821 S. Main St., North Canton.

Blue Star Mothers attend patriotic and memorial functions as well as calling hours and funerals for fallen heroes. Members attend speaking engagements for churches, schools and other venues to help educate the community. They also supply welcome home banners, offer a Gold Star Banner presentation for fallen heroes and stay informed about military legislation.

Another important function the local chapter performs is to collect donated items and pack them up into care packages to send to active troops. Department of Ohio Blue Star Mothers President Brenda Russell and local chapter President Sue Simmons and other local members participate quarterly in collecting items, packing them in boxes and sending the much-needed care packages.

"Blue Star Mothers is a 75-year-old organization that is a 501(c)3 Congressional Charted Military organization," Russell said. "We’re here to support current military members, veterans, Gold Star families and each other. All of our members have a family member who is serving or has served in the United States Military. There are also associates who don’t have anyone serving or served but still want to support our military."

Russell has a son who served in the Army Reserve and is an Iraqi war veteran. Simmons has two sons, one is active in the Air Force and one is an Iraqi War veteran. Plus, she has a grandson serving in the Marine Corps.

"The members meet monthly and we try to do the care packages quarterly," Simmons said. "We box up two types of boxes. One is loaded with food, drinks and snacks and one is filled with health and wellness items such as toothpaste, mouthwash, sanitary hand wipes, soap, eyedrops, shampoos, sun screen, chap stick, socks, playing cards and many other items."

All of the items are donated by the members including the boxes and the postage to send the boxes. The members packed this quarter’s boxes during the April 4 meeting. They loaded the boxes with Girl Scout cookies, Slim Jims, coffee, candy, drink mixes and plastic bottles of ranch salad dressing that someone donated.

There is also a note included in the top of each box with the name and location of the chapter. There is also a personal message on the note that reads, "We will continue to keep you close to our hearts and prayers every day and look forward to your safe return."

"In today’s military, everyone serving has to purchase all of their items including uniforms. We hear from many of the local service members that received one of our care packages. They tell us how important it was to them to receive the items we send," Simmons said.

Russell and Simmons said they welcome new members or donations for the care packages. To find out more information about the group or the care packages, visit the website at or call 330-312-3655 or send a letter to Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc, Stars and Stripes Chapter 2 at PO BOX 36412, Canton OH 44735.