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Published August 17, 2013, 10:00 PM

A piece of home: Care packages perfect ‘day makers’ for adult children

Chicago - Nicole Nelson will always remember the party in a box. Cupcakes, a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game and party hats made her first birthday away from home memorable. Nicole’s mother, Dorian Nelson of Fargo, sent the birthday care package when Nicole was a freshman at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

Chicago - Nicole Nelson will always remember the party in a box.

Cupcakes, a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game and party hats made her first birthday away from home memorable. Nicole’s mother, Dorian Nelson of Fargo, sent the birthday care package when Nicole was a freshman at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa.

The birthday box wasn’t the only care package Dorian sent to Nicole. She’d create four or five packages each year, mostly to remind Nicole, who now lives in Chicago, how much the family loved and miss her. Nicole, 26, still remembers the care packages.

“I am very close with my family, so it was just another way to connect back home and helped with being homesick,” she says. “My mom always put a lot of thought and love in every package, and that really came through in each one.”

Steve and Kathy Meland, of Fargo, have been sending care packages to son Brian Meland, 33, since he was a freshman at Minnesota State University Moorhead more than a decade ago. Brian now lives in Denver with his wife, and Steve and Kathy continue to send care packages to offer him a piece of home.

“He’s still my kid, and he’s never too old to get a care package,” Steve says.

They send Brian and his wife treats, newspaper stories from local papers, photos, homemade baked goods like Rice Krispies bars and brownies, and other novelties that “would bring them a smile,” Steve says.

Jenny Faure, of Valley City, N.D., sends her three adult children – ages 21, 24 and 25 – care packages for similar reasons. She just wants to “make their day.”

“Sending a care package is an easy, inexpensive way to really brighten your child’s day, especially when they are not expecting it,” she says.

The surprise of care packages boosted Concordia College senior Danielle Bolme of Apple Valley, Minn., during her freshman year. Her parents sent packages through Concordia’s Love From Home care package program the entire school year.

The packages are put together by Concordia College Dining Services employees, and range in price from $15 to $35. Parents or loved ones can order the packages online and choose one that suits their student or create their own customized package.

“I believe that because I got them for my whole freshman year, I kind of settled in with Concordia and found my place,” Danielle says.

She remembers one Valentine’s Day Love From Home bundle as being especially significant. Her boyfriend was studying abroad, and she wasn’t going to celebrate Feb. 14. Once she checked her mail and retrieved the care package, the frosted sugar cookies and teddy bear cheered her up.

“It just made my Valentine’s Day so much better to know I was appreciated, and my mom was thinking about me even though I was four hours away,” she says.

As a Concordia College Dining Services staff member, Danielle now makes the care packages that go out to students. She says people often remark that they’re “day makers.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525

Care package tips

FARGO – Think of care packages as long-distance hugs.

Parents and children who’ve sent and received care packages agree that memorable care packages aren’t about the amount of money spent or the number of items inside. Care packages are all about reminding the receiver that they’re loved.

Parents and students share some tips and ideas for creating meaningful bundles.

- Tune in to what they like.

Jenny Faure, of Valley City, N.D., compiles her care packages based off her children’s interests, and she also sends items that they might not buy themselves since they’re college students on tight budgets.

Think about an iTunes gift card for your music lover, a new shade of lipstick for your stylish daughter or workout gear for your fitness fanatic.

Faure occasionally throws in practical items like toothbrushes, socks or cash.

- Homemade is homey.

A person’s favorite homemade baked goods might be just the ticket to soothe homesickness.

Faure recommends freezing cookies and wrapping them in bubble wrap before sending and using inexpensive storage containers for sending breads and muffins.

- Pack it in.

Flat-rate boxes are a smart shipping choice because they can be stuffed full and still arrive in a timely manner, Faure says.

- Use holidays and other occasions for inspiration.

Dorian Nelson, of Fargo, often sent her daughter Nicole Nelson, of Chicago, care packages for each holiday they were apart.

The care packages would have a holiday or event theme. For example, for Easter, Dorian would fill baskets with candy, an egg dye kit and plastic eggs filled with treats.

For Nicole’s birthday one year, Dorian sent her a delivery of her favorite appetizers, ice cream and cheese cake from Schwan’s.

Gift cards to restaurants that deliver or are located close to campus are great add-ons in care packages, Dorian says. She often sent gift cards to Nicole during finals week.

- The name says it all.

Care packages are not about how much money is spent, but rather the care and love that goes into making them, Nicole says.

“My favorite items in care packages were never expensive, but they were always very personal, and I know how much time and love my mom put into creating the perfect care package for me,” she says.

- Age doesn’t matter.

College-aged or not, everyone can use a care package sometimes.

“You may think your child is too old for a care package or even candy, but trust me, when they are sitting hundreds of miles from home, getting a trick-or-treat basket filled with candy or a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game will brighten their day,” Nicole says.

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