The Mountain State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

Learn more about HD Media

I love to have people over and always try to keep the food I serve as simple and easy-to-prepare as possible. I want to enjoy talking to my guests and focus on them, not the food.

Ideally, I always serve something I can make ahead so I’m not scrambling with meal preparation right before guests arrive. I have included some appetizers and a signature party drink, plus details of our “College Care Package Party” where I served them.

After my firstborn went away to college, I came across an article on a blog about a college care package party. The premise is that you invite other moms whose kids have gone away to school and everyone brings a box full of items for the entire group.

I enlisted the help of my best friend and neighbor, who also has college-age students, and we co-hosted our first event three years ago. At the most recent party, we made boxes for 15 kids, so everyone purchased 15 of the same items to put in everyone else’s box.

Everyone left with all the different items that others had brought. There is no shortage of wine and food and we commiserate with one another as to how much we miss our adult kids. The time spent with other moms is very therapeutic and we end with really impressive gifts to send to our students.

Stories you might like

My bunch of overachieving friends gets pretty creative with what they bring. Past items have included everything from multiple port phone chargers to a wall hook labeled for hanging masks.

After we stuff the boxes, we take index cards and write notes to each student during the party. Most I know well and tailor the message to the kid like, “Hope you are loving your music class.” Or, if I do not know them well, “Have a great year!” We hold the party at different houses and do four boxes throughout the school year: a box when they go back in August, one with a Halloween theme, a Valentine box and one for finals.

After I sent the finals box last May to my daughter, I asked her what her favorite item was.

She said, “Of course I loved the $5 Chick-Fil-A gift card, but really I loved the notes the most. I ended up taping them to my mirror so I could see them every morning before I took an exam to remind me of all the people who were sending me prayers, positive vibes and love. It really brightened my finals week.”

And isn’t that what we want for our kids? We want to show them love even when they are away from us — and let them know their entire village of parental support is back here in Charleston cheering them on.

Sarah Long is the author of the cookbook “College Cooking 101: Fast Food Without a Kitchen.”

You can contact her at and follow her on social media on facebook @SarahHLongAuthor, Instagram @CollegeCooking101, and Twitter @SarahHLong1.

Recommended for you