It brings to about 5,000 the number of packages assembled in the past decade since putting together the ﬁrst consignment of 30 in 2011 for Australian troops deployed overseas.
Mrs Johnston co-ordinates this mini military operation with the able assistance of the Aberdeen Care Package Cadets, including students from St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen. The group’s ongoing dedication has become well-known throughout the Upper Hunter and within Australian military circles.
A helicopter from HMAS Newcastle ﬂew to Aberdeen on Remembrance Day in 2015 to thank the Care Package Cadets. Defence personnel attended a St Joseph’s assembly and formally recognised Mrs Johnston and the school’s care package cadets.
Mrs Johnston says her aim is to teach children to do something without a reward. It ﬁts neatly with St Joseph’s philosophy.
Every package contains a letter, and there is a sequence when ﬁlling the boxes.
“The magazine goes in ﬁrst, then the Tim Tams, then the tinned tuna and so on, because everything has a spot,” Mrs Johnston says. “When they open the box we don’t want it to look like we’ve hoicked everything in. And the ﬁrst thing we want them to see is their letter.”
Mrs Johnston’s cover letter introduces the cadets and explains why they are doing what they do.
It reads in part: “My aim is to teach the boys about community, caring for others, selﬂessness, mateship, taking responsibility, giving their time without reward, which I think will make great men. We send our love to you across the miles in a country far from home… stay safe, return soon.”
The cadets quickly learn about teamwork, working for no reward, and making a difference to someone’s life. This year’s intake includes a ﬁrst, a girl, and she’s only 7. “I never have to remind them why they’re doing it,” Mrs Johnston says her charitable works have always had a strong link to St Joseph’s. Her second-hand shop, Aberdeen Treasures, which unfortunately closed last year during Covid, donated all its proﬁts to the community, helping those in need and to fund the pre-school.