NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Community members gathered to pack thousands of care packages for veterans Saturday morning.

An Operation Gratitude packing party took place Saturday morning in North Charleston.

Candy, hygiene items, and handwritten letters were stuffed into Operation Gratitude care bags to be shipped to veterans as a thank you for their service.

“We’ll be assembling about 8,500 care packages today, and we have volunteers who have come together to help assemble these care packages,” Operation Gratitude Volunteer Director, Vicki Johnson said.

Operation Gratitude organizers say it’s a small gesture they can do to show how much they are thankful for the years of sacrifice veterans give.

Johnson said, “The work of the service members, its really never done and being able to honor these veterans who have spent so many years giving back to our country in such a small way.”

One Army veteran, Thomas Connor, spent the morning packing boxes. He knows this gesture will touch the lives of those who served.

Connor said, “I think it’s important for veterans to know that there are people who care for them.”

He says his hope for each veteran when they open the box, is that they feel valued.

“I hope they feel loved and that we appreciate them for the sacrifices they and their families made for this country,” Connor said.

This year is Operation Gratitude’s 20th anniversary and organizers say they hope to do this for years to come.

“Over 3.8 care packages in the hands of deployed service members, veterans, service members, care givers,” Johnson said.

It’s part of Operation Gratitude’s mission to express deep appreciation for those who have stepped forward to serve and sacrificed on our behalf.