United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Veterans Surprised by "Christmas-in-a-Box" Gift from Caring Minnesotan
The boxes are decorated by hand with bright Christmas messages. Photo courtesy WCCO-TV.
The boxes are decorated by hand with bright Christmas messages. Photo courtesy WCCO-TV.

"Although it's been said many times, many ways..."

Here is a new way Christmas cheer found its way to a group of Veterans at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center in Minnesota.

About a year ago, a very thoughtful 20-year-old Minnesotan, Jeanie Mendenhall, surprised a sick friend of hers with a box full of goodies designed to cheer up her friend. Jeanie called it a "happy box."

It worked so well that Jeanie stocked up during the big after-Christmas sales and chose a special location to spread some holiday cheer: the St. Cloud VA Community Living Center for older and disabled Veterans.

Jeanie and some young friends decorated 18 cardboard boxes with a bright message: "Merry-Christmas-in-a-Box."

According to the story broadcast on WCCO television, Jeanie handed out the boxes to the Veterans, saying, "I have a Christmas box for you with all sorts of Christmas goodies. Thank you for serving our country. Here's some stuff to liven up your room a little bit and fill your stocking."

Veterans Bob "Huck" Huckabee and Howard Watts were happily surprised with the boxes containing a tiny tree, decorations and a Christmas stocking filled with little presents.

Jeanie then presented a "Merry-Christmas-in-a-Box" to 97-year-old Emma Bogart, a World War II Veteran who teased Jeanie about the wrapping on her present: "You fix it real tight," Emma said as she tried to pull off the paper. "I didn't mean to," Jeanie responded with a laugh.

Emma's "Merry-Christmas-in-a-Box" contained a book about Christmas carols and a CD of the popular holiday songs.

As a musical conclusion to her visit, Jeanie then introduced her family and friends, who serenaded the Veterans with Christmas carols on their violins.

Explaining her gift to the Veterans, Jeanie remarked, "It's because of them that we're free and have freedom in this country. I don't want them to be lost and forgotten when they've given so much."

Emma Bogart was very moved by her gift: "I think this is something out of this world."

Jeanie Mendenhall hopes to make more boxes next year.

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer