Karen Berger, PharmD
Karen Berger, PharmD, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy in 2001. She has worked in community pharmacies for over 17 years as a Pharmacist in Charge, staff, and floater pharmacist for a large chain. Currently, she is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Northern NJ. She can be reached at email@example.com
Alisha Barr, PharmD, is a graduate of the Washington State University College of Pharmacy. Currently, she resides in Maple Valley, Washington, and works as a staff pharmacist for QFC Pharmacy.
Her oldest sibling, Christopher Farmer, has been serving the country in the US Army for the past 20 years. He is currently serving his fifth deployment, in Syria, as a First Sergeant (1SG), and has also been carrying out the role of Sergeant Major.
1SG Farmer, who is married and has 3 children, was diagnosed with epilepsy during a deployment in Afghanistan. Despite this obstacle, “he has continued to devote his time and care to the soldiers he has spent so much time training,” Barr said.
Barr is also the wife of an Air Force veteran, and a member of the Pharmacist Moms Facebook group, an online forum created by Suzanne Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS, with more than 24,000 pharmacists. In a post to the closed group, Barr addressed her brother's mention that there is a great need for basic supplies among the troops.
The post led to an overwhelming response.
“I had heard stories of the soldiers having extremely painful chapped lips, as well as the lack of silverware and basic hygiene products. Another 1 of my siblings was sending chapstick in bulk and I found myself wishing I could help out on a higher level. I knew I couldn’t afford to send all of the supplies they were lacking. I debated for some time about reaching out to others but then I remembered a time back when I was in pharmacy school and my brother was on another deployment. During that deployment, he was in a similar situation of needing hygiene supplies. I reached out to Washington State University and they generously donated hundreds of travel size hand sanitizer bottles. My brother and his soldiers were extremely thankful,” Barr said.
Thinking back upon that moment, Barr decided she needed to “get past my shyness and just make a post regarding the situation.” Barr said that she wasn’t sure she would get any responses at all, but several moms in the group asked her to make an Amazon wish list. (Amazon ships to military APO addresses for free.)
“That really got the ball rolling,” Barr said. “Within a few hours I had received so many responses from ladies in the group that I could hardly keep up. I made a comment to my husband [Benjamin Barr] that night that I really needed to add more items because every item I had put on the list had already been purchased and sent within the first couple of hours."
Benjamin Barr helped his wife add more items. Having spent time deployed in the Middle East, he had some great ideas. Within minutes of items being added, they too were already being purchased.
Some of the items the soldiers needed were utensils, plates or trays to eat on, portable snacks, and basic hygiene products.
“My brother was super grateful when I told him to expect these packages, and then when the packages started rolling in, there was a lot of shock and excitement from the soldiers. My brother has posted photos of some soldiers and their huge smiles after opening some packages. Their responses of thankfulness have been overwhelming,” said Barr.
“So many women have been more than happy to help out. In fact, they all seemed excited, and jumped at the opportunity to be able to give back to our troops. And every time I’ve posted an update, I’ve been told by more pharmacist moms that they are sending care packages,” said Barr.
The soldiers especially loved the gummy bears, she added. “The candy reminds them of home and offers a sense of comfort.”
Barr says that 1SG Farmer will be there for a while, and “it won’t be long before they are running low on supplies. "They still can use more hygiene items, soap, and non perishable food items," she said.
Donations are continuing to be accepted through the Amazon Wish List.