Jeff Blashka, compliance specialist with Associated’s Private Client and Institutional Services (PCIS) in Neenah partnered with Girl Scout troop #2386 from Saint Gabriel’s School to send cookies to soldiers stationed overseas. Over the past couple years, Blashka and the Girl Scouts have worked to raise cookie donations for military members abroad.

“The cause is important because I remember my father telling me stories of being in Korea, far from family, missing the normalcy of life back home,” said Blashka. “I started sending cookies overseas because I wanted to bring a small bit of home to our troops now engaged overseas. It’s a privilege to show my support and gratitude for all they do and sacrifice to ensure peace.”

The project started in 2010 when Blashka and his wife purchased a few extra boxes of cookies and mailed them to troops who were overseas. Due to the rules restricting care packages to be sent to a general unit, the Blashka'’s mailed the cookies to individual soldiers. At the time, their neighbor’s son was serving in Afghanistan and he was the lucky candidate to receive the first 30 boxes to distribute.

In 2011, the news of Blaskha’s efforts spread to colleagues, who then helped send 80 boxes of cookies overseas to several addresses.

By 2012, Diana Paltz, retirement plan services support manager, also with Associated, wanted her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to be involved. Together, they sold 130 boxes and sent them to the troops, along with handmade personal cards.

2013 came along and so did Paltz’s husband, Craig, who Blashka notes is a ‘selling machine’. With the extra efforts from Craig, the girls donated 300 boxes – surpassing all expectations.

This year, Blashka and the Girl Scouts helped raise over 500 boxes of cookies to be sent over. Associated colleagues at Neenah Main raised $135 to help cover some of the costs to ship the cookies, and Associated Bank stepped up with a donation to cover the rest of the shipping expenses.

Associated contribution loan pay specialist, Linda O’Connell, also helped the cause. “I am grateful that people appreciate the efforts of all of our men and women in the military, whether they are currently stationed abroad or here in the states.”

Her daughter, Kerry Woods, has been on active duty in the Navy since 2007. Blashka and his co-workers decided to send her cookies, which got quite the response.

“When I distributed the cookies, people thought that I was selling them. When I told them they were donated by the Girl Scouts everyone was so surprised and delighted that they were thought of,” said Woods.

The troops are grateful for all the girls have done to give them a taste of home and a reminder that there are people back home who care about them and appreciate their services.

Blashka says he plans to continue his cookie donation efforts. “This is just something that is dear to my wife and me. Because of the success of this year’s cookie drive, it has grown into something much bigger than a home project.”

He hopes to exceed the cookie donations of every previous year, spreading more smiles and happiness throughout the troops.