Jill Edwards has worked at Washington University in St. Louis since 1993 and currently serves as a Project Manager in the university’s administrative offices. Over the past several years, Jill has been active with the Affton School District, her church and most recently St. Louis Cares, a program of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. Her most significant contribution thus far, however, has been with the Washington University Military Care Package Project, which she founded in 2004 after observing the success of a similar project that her sister had implemented in her hometown.
Through Human Resources at WUSTL, Jill was able to contact two WUSTL employees who were currently serving in the military: one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. In addition to sending them care packages, Jill communicated with them to develop a large-scale plan for delivering such gifts to many more soldiers.
Since March of 2004, Jill has mobilized the WUSTL community to send more than 4,333 pounds of snacks, toiletries and sporting goods to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes more than 10,000 home-baked brownies and cookies, many of which Jill spent hours baking herself. Each package includes a postcard with a picture of Brookings Hall and the American flag.
Since the project began, Jill has received numerous emails and letters of thanks; it is these letters that poignantly demonstrate the impact of her work. Recently, Michael Lovett, Chaplain and Lt. Colonel for the U.S. Air Force #447, wrote in a letter addressed to WUSTL, “I wish I had the ability to convey just how special these packages are to the troops. It means so much that someone took their personal time to stop what they were doing to put together the package and then mail it. It really isn’t so much about what is in the package as it is about the support and love which comes from those who send these things. It means the world to the deployed members knowing that folks back home have not forgotten about us. Your thoughtfulness will be long remembered.”
Jill’s project inspires us to believe that one individual really can make a difference in the lives of many others. In spite of her success, however, she remains humble. As one of her nominators, Engineering School Associate Dean Chris Kroeger writes, “She is a ‘salt of the earth’ type of person, who seeks to do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do, without any fanfare.”