Charity organizations across the country have been collecting everything from blowup reindeer and hand-knit scarves to mp3 players and guitars all year long, planning to brighten the holidays for troops deployed far from home.
The task at hand is finding enough money to ship the gifts overseas, organizers say….
…Master Sgt. Michael Goza has been deployed in an undisclosed location overseas since May 2010 and will not return home until January. He will miss his traditional holiday celebrations with his wife and three daughters. In June, he received a care package from Operation Gratitude and says the items inside made him and the rest of his unit very happy.
“Believe me, we really do enjoy getting some of the things from home, no matter how small or how big,” Goza says.
Operation Gratitude focuses on sending smaller packages to individual servicemembers overseas. Based in California, the group sends 100,000 packages a year, each containing 150 small items that can be shared with the recipient’s unit, says Carolyn Blashek, the organization’s founder and president.
Including expenses such as storage, forklifts, communication and security, each package costs about $15 to ship, she says. Shipping is much less than what Give 2 The Troops pays because Operation Gratitude sends significantly smaller boxes.
This year, each holiday package includes a hand-knit or crocheted scarf, blank holiday cards for the servicemember to send home, beef jerky, protein bars, energy shots, DVDs, socks and more.
Because Iraq and Afghanistan are Muslim countries, pork products, alcohol and overly religious items cannot be sent, Blashek says. Each box includes a small stuffed animal, which can be given to local children. This encourages the children to tell troops where bombs and terrorists are, Blashek says.
Dec. 11 will be Operation Gratitude’s last shipping day, on which it will ship its 600,000th box, Blashek says. Each milestone box goes to a randomly selected servicemember with a dramatic surprise such as keys to a new SUV or a vacation in the Caribbean.
“It’s really a celebration of the support the country has for the troops,” Blashek says.
“All of your gifts bring smiles and sometimes tears to everyone that receives them,” Goza says.
For the full article and great photos, check out: http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/mind-soul/doing-good/2010-11-29-sharing-troop-gifts_N.htm