Every year for nearly the last 30 years, the staff and employees at Mesa's JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law have continued a holiday tradition.
They take a day during the season, close up shop for half a day and have a luncheon before spreading their holiday cheer with a community Christmas service project, mostly in the East Valley.
In years past, the JacksonWhite employees have worked with Save the Family, installed playground equipment, cleaned Mesa's Guerrero Rotary Park and helped prepare a gymnasium for a prom for disabled kids.
"Every year we do something different," said Liz Coyle, client services director for JacksonWhite and coordinator of the community service project. "We're always looking for a different project to do that will benefit the community. There's a lot of camaraderie in the office and we always look forward to doing another project each year."
"It's been a tradition, and it helps the community," said Brad Black, legal administrator for JacksonWhite.
On Friday at the Mesa Chamber of Commerce office, nearly 70 JacksonWhite employees, including 22 lawyers, listened to the experiences of two decorated Marine Reservists from the Valley - Cpls. Lance Pew and Alberto Amparan - before lining up single file in assembly line fashion to fill boxes of items that will be mailed as care packages for troops serving in Afghanistan. Pew and Amparan returned from the Middle East in October after serving in Afghanistan, where Pew was injured when a 120-pound improvised explosive device exploded on his vehicle and knocked him unconscious. Pew received his Purple Heart last week at Luke Air Force Base.
Many of the items for the care packages the law office collected included simple goods we take for granted every day such as hand sanitizer wipes and lotion, perishable foods such as boxes of macaroni and cheese, toothpaste and 5-Hour Energy Bars - a valuable commodity that helps keeps soldiers alert. Another table of workers filled out Christmas cards to go with each box.
Office worker Darbie Lasta enlisted the help of Burke Basic School, where her son attends kindergarten, and Tots Unlimited, where her daughter attends daycare, too help with donations. The office also worked with the VFW Ladies Auxiliary at Sun Lakes on the project.
Ron Buchanan, an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran who now works in the elder law department for JacksonWhite, knows how much those care packages are appreciated.
"I know we would look forward to those packages, but how often would we see them?" Buchanan said. "Even Tabasco sauce was special."
Pew said that they may get care packages about every week and a half after they return to the base after serving in the field.
"Mac and cheese?" Pew said. "That stuff is gold."
Buchanan said, "I wouldn't care if it was a fruitcake. It was great just to get something from home."
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