As the Hernando Sun celebrates its sixth anniversary this month, we commemorate another milestone simultaneously--the debut of the Show Us Your Sunshine column, a weekly good news feature that celebrates and casts the spotlight on the love, the caring, the acts of good will that shine through our darkest times.
In March 2020, the column debuted with an account of an act of good will, as 'custom delivered' by a trucker's wife. She submitted a beautiful story of a family who gifted her husband with a care package; an act of kindness meant to acknowledge his work and service, delivering food in the time of a global pandemic.
It seems fitting, then, that the first anniversary edition of Show Us Your Sunshine showcases the giving of countless care packages--also to people who put their lives on the line to make our lives better.
Brandon Dutkiewicz is a Hernando veteran who has found an innovative, high tech way to give back to those who give all.
"I am a local veteran and I created a new way to support deployed troops for people in the community and all across the country. I created an app called “Support A Troop,” he explained. "It’s a free app that anyone can download to send a troop a gift while they are serving overseas. You don’t have to go to the post office, or pay the high shipping fees! This app is saving people money and time and getting people involved in helping troops at a personal level without having to leave their homes."
The Support a Troop app can be downloaded at:
App Store Link: https://tinyurl.com/nuw27efx
Google Play Link: https://tinyurl.com/38fhkr48
Here are some features of the app:
Wishlist: A wishlist is a feature that allows the troop to pick what they want and need. This is so the donor is 100% sure that their gift is needed and won’t be tossed away. This personalizes the gift.
Gift tracking: Your package will be tracked every step of the way, you will get a notification when your package is shipped and when it has arrived.
Thank you photos and messages: After your package arrives, the troop can send you a thank you photo and a message through the app.
Recordkeeping: All of your donations are kept on record in the app.
Follow feature: Donors can follow a specific troop's wishlist and be updated when they add more items.
This is a very personal project for Dutkiewicz, who proudly identifies himself as "a local Army veteran of Hernando County."
"The app “Support A Troop” was released right before Christmas of last year," he explained. "My inspiration to build “Support A Troop” came from the experiences I had as a soldier whileI was deployed, and my awareness of how many other soldiers are faced with the same circumstances every day."
Dutkiewicz’ personal mission has become a life’s passion.
“Support A Troop exists to boost the morale of troops and encourage citizens to show their patriotic spirit,” said Dutkiewicz, who operates the project through retailer Amazon, through the organization's account. “I was raised by my single mom in a low-income household alongside my three other siblings. When I was eighteen years old, I decided to join the Army for my country and my family. In 2016 when I was 21 years old, I was deployed to the war-torn country of Afghanistan, Helmand province. Many times, on my tour, we were rocketed and threatened by the locals; we all knew we were hated and unwanted there. The best escape we had from where we were was on Fridays when messages and packages came from back home. A lot of laughs and smiles were shared about who sent what, and why. Unfortunately, week after week some of us could not share in the joy of being sent something from someone back home; I was one of those soldiers. It is tough not to see personal support from someone.”
Aside from gifts, Dutkiewicz wants to send a strong message to the troops: You’re worth it.
“To know that what you are doing and what you are sacrificing matters to somebody. That feeling of not having someone leaves invisible scars that follow you beyond your deployment and into your life as a veteran, I know this from experience,” he said. “I enjoy seeing the smile on the faces of troops and I love knowing patriots support these men and women in green. It makes me feel like my services were not for nothing and now I know in my heart, that someone somewhere did support me; even though I could not see them.”
Our thanks to Brandon Dutkiewicz, and to all of those contributors and readers who have filled and distinguished the inaugural year of Show Us Your Sunshine. Now let’s get started on year no. 2! Send your good news notices to community reporter Megan Hussey at [email protected]