Monday, January 30, 2023

Caring about the troops just got easier in Hampton Roads

Chelsea Mandello, the founder of Troopster Military Care Packs, stands at the entrance of Troopster's newest location, on 24th Street in Norfolk (Courtesy of Troopster)
Chelsea Mandello, the founder of Troopster Military Care Packs, stands at the entrance of Troopster’s newest location, on 24th Street in Norfolk (Courtesy of Laura Henderson/Hampton Roads BizConnect)

NORFOLK — Gifts of food and other necessities are always a welcomed sight. Indeed, everyone loves a good care package; especially those deployed in the military.

That is why Troopster exists. It’s an organization that accepts donations and sends care packages to military service members on deployment. This Wednesday, April 11, Troopster will open a new location in Norfolk. It will offer opportunities for the community to get involved with Troopster’s mission, and will expand the organization’s mission to supply troops with comfort packages.

According to a news release from Troopster, Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander will attend the ribbon cutting on Wednesday for Troopster’s grand opening . The event runs from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; tours of the facility will be given from 9 a.m. until 9:45 a.m., and the ribbon cutting will take place at 10 a.m.

Troopster in Norfolk is located behind Phantom Works near Old Dominion University.

Caring about care packages

In 2015, active duty Navy Petty Officer Chelsea Mandello founded Troopster Military Care Packs and its online store, which is the for-profit side of Troopster where customers can order personalized care packages for troops stationed abroad. The Norfolk office will serve both the profit and nonprofit sides of Troopster, Mandello said.

Troopster will begin accepting donations for military care packages during their grand opening on April 11 in Norfolk (Courtesy of Troopster)
Troopster will begin accepting donations for military care packages during their grand opening on April 11 in Norfolk (Courtesy of Troopster)

The office will serve as both main packing facility for the for-profit Troopster, LLC, which fulfills online orders from their website, and will also be the location for Troopster Donations, the nonprofit arm that accepts monetary and food donations. 

Related story: Donation bins all over Virginia Beach for USS Fitzgerald sailors

“I can’t think of a better location for Troopster than in the City of Norfolk,” Mandello said. “Norfolk has continuously supported my dream for Troopster since I launched in 2015 — offering countless resources such as the Veterans Business Outreach and Old Dominion Innovation Center, I am proud to join the local business community.”

Mandello founded Troopster while she was serving in the Navy after experiencing a difficult deployment in which many of her fellow service members were in need of care packages.

The very first Troopster donation was received in Mandello’s Virginia Beach home, and the organization’s first donation event was hosted in November 2016 by the Slover Library.

The first Troopster packing event was held at the Slover Library in Downtown Norfolk. More than 200 volunteers from the community participated and packed more than 500 care packages (Courtesy of )
The first Troopster packing event was held at the Slover Library in Downtown Norfolk. More than 200 volunteers from the community participated and packed more than 500 care packages (Courtesy of Kaycee McCoy/Create-Captivate )

Its new donation center in Norfolk will engage volunteers in the area every fourth Saturday of each month to assemble and ship out donation care packages to those deployed in the military.

Troopster will also be accepting donations during its grand opening, and have expressed a need for the following items:

  • Beef jerky
  • Chapstick
  • Socks
  • Healthy snack bars
  • Loofas
  • Skittles or other bags of candy
  • Emergen-C Vitamin Drink Mix

So who delivers packages to troops abroad?

Until 1980, each military service and government agency managed its own mail program.

In 1980, the Department of Defense designated the Secretary of the Army as the single military mail manager, and the Military Postal Service Agency was created to perform this task. 

Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) sort holiday care packages after the ship received 199 pallets of mail during a vertical replenishment (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. David Gardner/released)
Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island sort care packages after the ship received 199 pallets of mail during a vertical replenishment in December 2017 (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. David Gardner/released)

MPSA is required to adhere to the United States Postal Service’s shipping rules, federal laws, and various international laws and agreements for movement of military mail into more than 85 countries.

How long it takes to receive mail overseas

Transit times for overseas mail may vary due to military aircraft schedules, weather, transportation and military operations in theater, or movement of a service member’s unit.

Guide to standard overseas mail transit times (by days):

Wrapping everything up for the grand opening

Mandello said those who attend the April 11 ribbon cutting will have a chance to win a few prizes, including the chance to send a free care package in the participant’s name to a military service member.

Mandello said that knowing what it’s like being stationed overseas is what drives her passion of Troopster.

“No one realizes how difficult being deployed, away from home, truly is until they experience it,” Mandello said. “With the Navy, I’ve served on board nine ships across 13 countries, and it’s for those people who might be having a difficult time that I do this.”

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