Ashby Ann Is Giving Back This Season With Operation Adopt A Soldier
Published: November 2nd, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Ashby Ann is giving back this season with Operation Adopt a Soldier Now through December 1 Ashby Ann, located at 24 South Broad Street in Norwich, will be accepting donations for Operation Adopt a Soldier. The store will also have a station set up with stationery, pens, and crayons every Friday and Saturday through November for adults and children to come in and handwrite a letter or color a picture to be sent to a soldier. (Photo from the Ashby Ann Facebook page)

NORWICH — Downtown Norwich store Ashby Ann is giving back this holiday season with several charitable causes, one of which is participation in Operation Adopt a Soldier, which aims to provide support to US soldiers stationed around the world by sending supplies they may not have access to at base commissaries.

Ashby Ann Owner Kirsten Vidler-Mackey wants to emphasize the act of giving back and supporting others throughout the holidays this year, and was looking for charitable causes to participate in. She said the mission of Operation Adopt a Soldier is very close to her heart, as both her father and husband are veterans.

“My father was a veteran, and so is my husband, and it meant a lot to them,” she said. “My husband was very big on this. He’s the one that threw me the idea and said, you know what, you should maybe do something. Since your thing is giving back, why not do the soldiers? I think this is perfect.”

Story Continues Below Adverts

The store, located at 24 South Broad Street in Norwich, will serve as a drop off point for donations now through December 1. A full list of acceptable items can be found at

Vidler-Mackey spoke with her husband, Chris, to learn what items are most sought by soldiers. This list included beef jerky, baby wipes, glasses lens cleaner, double A and triple A batteries, watches, board games, Sudoku or crossword puzzle books, decks of cards, band aids, and travel-size loofahs.

“So Chris’ big thing: beef jerky, because it’s hard to come by. It’s like gold to them. So beef jerky, and baby wipes he said, especially when you’re in a hot place. So Afghanistan was pretty rough, and it was hot and sandy and gross, so they would use that,” Vidler-Mackey explained.

“They do have a base store that does carry quite a few things. But we just have to think outside the box and what we can get them that they wouldn’t carry there. Like even Sudoku books, or puzzle books, or puzzles. Just anything that’s hands on, and if you’re going to get a Sudoku book, get some pens or pencils to go with them. Make it hand in hand.”

Additionally, Vidler-Mackey will be collecting handwritten letters and colored pictures to send to the troops overseas. She said letters and drawings can be on any kind of stationery and placed in unmarked and unsealed envelopes.

On Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, Vidler-Mackey will also be setting up a station in Ashby Ann with paper, pens, and crayons for adults and children to stop by and take a few minutes to write a letter or color a picture. She said the station will also be set up every Friday and Saturday throughout November as well.

“[I’ll] have it set up here where people can come in, you can have a cup of coffee, and sit down and write. It might take ten, 20 minutes out of your day. But that ten to 20 minutes out of your day means the world to that soldier that’s overseas in all this destruction. So it means a lot,” said Vidler-Mackey.

Story Continues Below Adverts

Her husband explained to her that “the biggest heartfelt thing was getting that personalized letter. From, it doesn’t matter who, but just to tell, hey, this is what we do for the holidays, or this is something about my small town. Or anything really. Just a piece of your life to share with them even though they don’t know you.”

Along with letters and drawings, Vidler-Mackey said adding in an extra envelope with a few sheets of paper is a great donation, as it allows soldiers to write letters home to their family and friends.

Donation items that should be avoided include things made of glass, meltable candy, such as chocolate bars, and full-size toiletries.

“People will buy full bottles of shampoo — they can’t send that. Some of these people have to go miles to get to the shower bays, so for them to carry a bottle this big, they can’t do that. They need the little travel ones,” said Vidler-Mackey.

She also emphasized that individuals don’t need to donate piles of items to make a difference. Just one item donated has an impact.

“When you're at the store, just pick up one item. Throw it in your cart, it’s a dollar, two dollars, three dollars. Throw one in,” she said. “I’m just asking for people to have a little bit of compassion for those that are giving so much so they could be here and have Christmas with their families. That’s all they want, to be home and have Christmas with their families, and they’re not. So let’s give back.”

More information on Operation Adopt a Soldier can be found at More information on Ashby Ann can be found on the Ashby Ann Facebook page.