Corrections Officer starts “Sweets for Soldiers” to show support to troops overseas
Corrections Officer Jerald Nugent knows what it’s like to be thousands of miles away, anxiously waiting for a package from home.
Nugent, a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves, who returned from an 11-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, remembers how much it meant when mail arrived from friends and loved ones.
He also remembers the men and women he served alongside who didn’t have family to show support.
“It means a lot,” said Nugent, who works at G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility. “It’s much easier to do your job in the military when you have the support of family and friends.”
That’s why, when Nugent returned, he wanted to show those serving overseas they were appreciated.
In 2013, he approached Jackson County’s Northwest Schools with an idea to collect Halloween candy for deployed troops. That year, he launched Sweets for Soldiers with 200 pounds of candy collected for service members.
Today, Sweets for Soldiers also includes a fundraising cook out at Cotton Correctional Facility with a dual purpose. It has served as one way to honor the 91 veterans who work at the facility, and money raised during the event also helps cover the cost of shipping bags of candy to troops across the world.
Last year, Sweets for Soldiers provided 1,100 pounds of candy to deployed service members, and
Officer Nugent credits his colleagues for their help making the initiative successful.
Every year, more of his coworkers have stepped up to assist with the cook out, or to donate food or prizes.
Juan Contero, a corrections officer at Cotton Correctional Facility and veteran of the Marine Corps, has assisted with the cook out and Sweets for Soldiers since it began and said he knows how important the packages are to men and women serving overseas.
“Some don’t have family, so this means a lot, especially when it’s a surprise,” he said.
Soldiers receiving the candy are grateful for the packages and have sent photos and letters of thanks, which Officer Nugent provides to elementary students who donated their Halloween candy.
“Some may never get a care package and the only one they receive is the one we drop into their hands,” he said. “It’s humbling.”