The tower of empty white postal boxes waiting to be filled rose 14 feet into the air, taking over a corner of the American Legion Hall on Friday morning.
This was the starting point of an assembly line to make the annual Holiday Cheer Box Drive possible.
More than 150 volunteers arrived at the hall to help pack hygiene products, non-perishable foods and treats into 2,500 boxes for men and women stationed in Afghanistan.
They were led by Lodi Support Our Troops, an organization that began nine years ago when LaRonda and Dale Templeton of Galt sent 50 boxes to soldiers stationed far from home.
Dale Templeton remembers serving in the Air Force in the late '60s, when not everyone was accepting of those in uniform. But today, he says folks here in Lodi are very supportive, and willing to donate to men and women serving now.
Each of the 2,500 boxes contains about $60 to $80 in materials and costs $10.85 to ship, for a total of over $200,000 to bring holiday cheer to soldiers and sailors.
The couple collect donations from local stores, businesses and churches throughout the year, then spend a week in November packing the boxes.
They do not usually ask for volunteers, but dozens of people show up each year to help.
Sisters Erica, 10, and Erin Anderson, 8, spent the morning handing boxes to the extensive assembly line of volunteers lining tables in the hall.
The girls noticed a sign in a hair salon with their mother last week advertising a project by Lodi Support Our Troops.
They were inspired to write a few letters, and they asked their friends to write, too. In a few days, they had 260 notes ready to send to troops overseas. They brought in their letters Friday morning and stayed to help out.
Another volunteer was in uniform.
Soldier Jordan Harboune was stationed in Balad, Iraq two years ago when he received a white postal box in the mail.
"When we get those boxes, it's like Christmas. It's the best," he said.
On Friday, Harbourne was on the assembly line.
"It's good to see all the supporters, and seeing it all put together," he said. "I'm glad to be able to help this time."
The Post Office will pick up the boxes on Sunday. Dale Templeton said he and his wife start receiving "thank you" notes in the mail before Christmas.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.