The Lonely Soldier initiative is a Portsmouth scheme that has been operating for five months, sending packages to troops who don’t receive messages or everyday essentials from family.
It is the brainchild of Leanne Gallagher-Costello and her husband Jon Costello, who is a sergeant major in the army. The couple live on Thorney Island in Portsmouth.
Leanne began by sending packages to a few of Jon’s colleagues. She then realised there were more troops in need of a posted pick-me-up, so she approached her local Tesco to see if they could help.
The Fratton Park Extra store was touched by Leanne’s story and donated a range of items.
Leanne, 39, said: ‘Jon said that when he’s away, receiving packages from me makes such a difference to him. But one time there was someone with him who didn’t receive anything, so the next time I sent my husband a package I also sent one to the other soldier. He was overwhelmed.
‘After that, my son Kenny was away on his navy training and I sent one of his friends a package. When I later met him at a passing-out parade, he burst into tears. He was so grateful for what I’d sent him.
‘So I thought that maybe I could get help from elsewhere to be able to send packages on a bigger scale, because there were clearly many people who would benefit from them.
‘Tesco was one of the organisations I approached and they have been fantastic. I’ve since sent out 50 packages of all sorts of non-perishable goods to many people.
‘I’ve seen videos of some of them opening their packages and their reaction has been really touching. I always put a note inside each package saying "Someone’s thinking of you’” and they seem to like that very much.'
Jon said the packages make a huge difference to his fellow troops, who often haven’t seen home for months.
The 37-year-old added: ‘This initiative is for troops who do not receive any parcels, whether they are home or away on operations. Any small gesture of thought can vastly contribute to the morale and mental wellbeing of that individual, so I would once again like to say thank you so much to Tesco for their help.'
Tara Bellinger, community champion at the Fratton Park Extra store, said she and her colleagues were honoured to support such a worthy cause.
She said: ‘We’re really pleased to be able to help Leanne and Jon. They’re bringing joy to some amazing people, and we’re all grateful for the job the troops are doing, so we look forward to working with the Lonely
Soldier Initiative more in the future.’
Tesco has a long association with the armed forces, dating back to Tesco founder Jack Cohen and is a signatory to the Ministry of Defence’s Armed Forces Covenant. About 300 Tesco employees are members of the supermarket chain’s Armed Forces Network, and the supermarket is one of the largest employers of reservists and former service personnel.
To get involved with Leanne’s Lonely Soldier initiative e-mail [email protected]