By Katie Brace, WBZ-TVBy Katie Brace

MANSFIELD (CBS) – A local group expects to have 100,000 cards to send to U.S. troops stationed overseas for Christmas and Hanukkah.

Lauren Eliopoulos, of Mansfield, started ‘Hero Helpers of America’ a year and half ago when her brother graduated from Marine Corps boot camp.

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“For me to go down to Paris Island and see the kids without family – it broke my heart,” said Lauren Eliopoulos.

Last year, the organization collected 12,000 cards for the holidays. This year the goal was 50,000. But the cards have kept on arriving from church groups, school kids, and anyone else you can think of and now it the number of cards is quickly approaching 100,000.

Marine Sergeant Benjamin Thompson has ten years in uniform and served in Iraq. During his deployment, he received cards and letters from strangers and he said he saved all of them.

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“It just lets us know people care and at the end of the day that’s really we all we care about,” said Sgt. Thompson.

‘Hero Helpers of America’ sends cards and packages throughout the year. Lauren’s brother, George, just returned to the U.S. from Iraq. He will arrive home soon for Christmas.

Their mother, Lynn, said the cards are important this time of year. “I know how much it (cards and packages throughout the year) meant to them. How much they went without over there and how much these cards are going to mean to the,” said Lynn Eliopoulos.

Each card and note is read before it is carefully packed-up and sent to the troops serving far away from home, so they too can know the spirit of the holiday.

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