Sending Santa Sacks to Soldiers

By Erika Mahoney

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 11:55 PM EST

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It might seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas, but when the gifts have to be sent more than 6,000 miles, starting early is key.

For the past six years, a group of girls called Angels over Iraq and Afghanistan has made "Santa Sacks" to send to soldiers working overseas.

"Every year we've done Christmas bags, and every year we get responses from the soldiers and it means a lot to them, being away from their homes at Christmas time," said Brianna Cart. "So it just makes me feel good that we are helping the soldiers."

This season, they are going big, sending 230 bags.

In one night, the girls took over a basement to stuff the bags with all sorts of candy and gifts.

"I call it like a trick-or-treat on steroids, because we just have the bags and we just go around and fill them," said Maryanne VanBurger.

It's a year of hard-work before the bags go into their boxes to be mailed. The biggest fundraiser -- a yard sale with help from the community.

"The day of the sale, tents were all over the yard, and they made 11,000 dollars," said VanBurger. "So that's the biggest fundraiser that gave them money to do this."

Although packing the bags is time-consuming, the girls say it is time well spent.

"I think it's fun having everyone here," said Cart. "Since we are all so busy, we don't get to see each other a lot, so it's a good time to spend together with our friends."

"It's tiring, it's fun, but you get a lot of joy out of it when you get the responses from the soldiers," said VanBurger.

Responses mainly via email, except for one very special thank you.

"One of the soldiers lived in Texas and he came here to visit to say thank you because it meant so much to him," said Cart.

As soon as all 230 bags are complete, the girls will be taking multiple trips to the post office.

The bags must be mailed by the end of November to get to Afghanistan in time.

The girls will also be sending cards to the troops.

And that means lots and lots of candy and small gifts... Overflowing in a basement that has been transformed into Santa's workshop.