Mattydale In a stuffy room full of sewing machines, about two dozen people spent a recent Saturday afternoon stuffing sleeves of fabric with polymer beads and sewing them shut.
The project was an initiative of the Syracuse Marine Parents, and the sleeves would ultimately end up as what the group calls Neck Kool-Eze, neck coolers that would ultimately be sent as part of care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Strips of fabric are sewn together, filled with polymer beads and sewn up, then shipped overseas. The coolers are soaked in water and the beads retain the water, keeping them wet for hours at a time. The idea is that the wet strips will help keep soldiers in desert climates like Afghanistan and Iraq cool on long, hot treks. They can be tied around the neck or placed under the helmet. Syracuse Marine Parents founder Sharlene Nemitz said the group has been making the coolers for at least five years.
“It’s handmade,” Nemitz said. “It’s kind of a little homey touch. It’s just a cool thing to do.”
The “work bee” on Saturday, March 31, went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In a good eight-hour span, Nemitz said a group could make as many as 600 to 700 coolers.
“We’ll send them to anyone we’ve got names for,” she said. “We’ll put them in bundles of 10 and put them in a care package that we send out. We’re going to be doing care packages April 21, so we’ll be collecting goods to put in the care packages. We’ll usually just do these in the spring time so it gets there before it gets too hot. Then we’ll do another care package around Christmas time, and we’ll do a stocking to send.”
The care packages are an effort to remind troops that there are people back home who are thinking about them and who are appreciative of the work they’re doing overseas.