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Campus & Community

Why a textbook civilian works to brighten troops' holidays with care packages from Drexel

November 13, 2013

Volunteers assembling care packages

Next to the word “civilian” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Tina Heuges’ smiling face. Or so she says.

Heuges, the director of transfer and part-time admissions in Enrollment Management, knew nothing about the military before she began working at Drexel. Her only family member who served, her grandfather, died before she was born.

But working with transfer students coming into Drexel, she began to help the many military veterans who enroll here. She became a go-to resource for veterans navigating the University after years in another world.

And now, she says, helping and thanking service members is one of her passions.

“I just kind of fell in love with that population,” Heuges said.

That’s how a textbook civilian came to be the adviser for the Drexel Veterans Association, and why she’s the one who heads up an annual drive to send care packages to men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This year’s drive, the third annual edition, is under way now. Sponsored by the Veterans Task Force and the DVA, it runs through Dec. 15. The goal is to thank service members who’ve been deployed and brighten their holiday season with a package full of things ranging from snacks to hand lotion to crossword-puzzle books.

“It really hits home when you think about soldiers and Marines not home for Christmas,” Heuges said. “It really affects people.”

Last year, the University sent off 60 packages, packed to the brim with more than 3,000 items collected. Heuges hopes to at least match that total this year.

Heuges and other volunteers from Drexel organize the whole effort, and the packages go to any service members whose names and addresses they can gather from members of the University community. They don’t need to be family members — in fact, Heuges said, the gratitude and warm feelings expressed through the packages can be even more powerful when it comes from someone a soldier doesn’t know. Recipients have written back to say so.

“I can’t believe you sent this to me and you don’t even know who I am,” one letter read.

This year’s packages will includes notes of gratitude from students, staff and faculty, written at Drexel’s Veterans Day Primer event last week.

The drive is collecting items in five different locations, on the University City, Center City and Burlington County College campuses. Click here for a list of locations and a list of items requested by troops.

Heuges is still looking for names and addresses of service members to send packages to, and anyone who’d like to submit a name can email her at

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