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Dairy enthusiast sends care packages and cheese to troops

Kelsey Holter Published on 12 April 2010

Troops 1

For most people in the dairy industry today, extra time is not easy to come by. But for Christine Vieira of Turlock, California, there is always extra time to help America’s soldiers.

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Since high school, Vieira has been involved in the dairy industry, working in auction yards and then hauling, buying and selling her own cattle. Vieira and her husband, Joe, have tried to run their own dairy twice but found that buying and selling cattle is where their strengths lie.

Four years ago, Vieira decided to complete 40 hours of community service during Lent. Today her efforts of community service have reached the hearts of soldiers around the world.

Vieira sends out care packages to soldiers in other countries and sailors stationed on Navy ships. The packages consist of toiletries, snacks, games, magazines and other essentials the soldiers may need.

“We just recently started sending cheese and crackers in the packages,” Vieira says.

And the soldiers love it.

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Victoria Azevedo, originally raised on a dairy farm in Modesto, California, but currently a parachute rigger stationed in Iraq, was very excited when she opened her care package.

“I got your package today it was fantastic!!!” Azevedo wrote in a thank you letter. “I put the cheese straight in the fridge that we have in our pack shed and we cut open one block it was gone in seconds so I opened another we almost ate two blocks of cheese between like 8 people in like 10 min. ... Thank you so much and that comes from my whole deployment team we really appreciate it ... Nothing like cheese and crackers.”

Troops 2

Vieira ended up sending out more than 300 pounds of cheese, costing her and other donators about $1,000. The cheese was purchased from Hilmar Cheese Company, in Hilmar, California.

For the project, Hilmar Cheese Company gave Vieira a 20 percent discount. In addition, four organizations and dairies donated money for the cost of the cheese.

“One group claimed that it was by far the best care package they had ever received,” Vieira says.

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Before packaging and sending, the non-edible items are stacked up in Vieira’s living room – all year round. Vieira believes soldiers need support not only during the holidays, but every day in between. She also has a lot of help with donations and packaging.

“Some of the local schools have had drives and collected items and some of the Portuguese organizations have contributed many times,” Vieira says. “Lots of my friends and community members have donated items and money for postage as well.”

Vieira’s youngest son, Mark, has also contributed and has received multiple community service awards for his efforts.

Postage for each care package costs at least $12, and it takes each package between 5 to 10 days to arrive at its destination.

In November 2008, Vieira, along with members of the Merced Elks Lodge 1240 where her father, Ernie Conner, is a member, held a Veteran’s Day fund raiser that brought in $12,000 for the service. The elks lodge has actually set up a “Support the Troops” fund. Her father is a retired Air Force veteran who served two tours in the Vietnam War.

“We were able to send about 600 packages with that money,” Vieira says.

She plans to continue her service for the soldiers because she knows how hard it is for them to be away for so long.

“I do this because I really appreciate my freedom, and I know who makes it possible,” Vieira says.

So far, Vieira has received three flags from platoons who have received her packages.

“They came with certificates stating that they were flown over their headquarters in the face of the enemy in our honor,” Vieira explains. “They are awesome.”

In addition to the flags, Vieira also shares the written letters she has received with others. The letters have inspired her to keep sending the packages to the soldiers.

“We have received many cards and letters from the soldiers that say things like: ‘It came at just the right time,’ or ‘You guys are like angels,’” Vieira says. “Words like that just keep me going.” PD

For more information on these efforts, contact Christine Vieira at

PHOTOS:
ABOVE RIGHT:
Christine Vieira of Turlock, California, has coordinated shipments of hundreds of boxes to military men and women serving overseas.
ABOVE LEFT:
Christine stands next to her mother JoAnn Conner. Photos courtesy of Christine Vieira.

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