By Lisa Byers
Sharon Boughner is one of the millions who lost a loved one during the Korean War, and like many others it has had a profound effect.
“My uncle was killed in Korea,” Boughner said. “And I’ve always had a real strong feeling for people who give their lives for us.
“I lived through Vietnam as well and I was so upset that those men and women didn’t get the support.”
About four years ago, Boughner decided to do something about it and came up with a way to give back to the troops currently serving around the world.
An orthodonic assistant for Dr. Paul Shok, Boughner decided to give the troops not only something they could all use, but a few words of encouragment from back home as well.
“I’d give all the kids who came in those little computer labels and have them write a message to the troops on them and then attach them to a small tube of toothpaste,” Boughner said.
Boughner then handed the toothpaste over to her church which then took the items to Project Support Our Troops to include in its packings.
“It not only inspired kids to do a nice job, but to think about being patriotic,” Boughner said. “They’d write messages like, ‘God bless you. Come home safe’ or ‘Thank you for your service.’
“Imagine if you were overseas and get a little chunk of home. What would that mean?”
Boughner said she has been unable to make such donations for at least the past two months because the office quit receiving sample toothpaste. Boughner looked into the situation this week and it was determined that the office would need to simply re-register for the toothpaste.
Boughner said they plan to do just that. In the meantime, Boughner approached Dr. Shok, who she said has been a strong supporter of her efforts, and asked if they could send toothbrushes instead.
Dr. Shok agreed to donate toothbrushes. Boughner said she already has labels ready to affix to the toothbrushes and hopes to have them in the hands of Project Support Our Troops before their Christmas packing dates on Dec. 4 and 5 at Post 52, 13240 Dunham Road, Meadville.
“It’s those types of things that keep us going,” Project Support Our Troops co-organizer Kim Lengling said. “We are very appreciative of the businesses who have stepped up to help. There are several in Crawford County and Erie County that do the same type of thing and quite a few have supported us all year long.”
Kentucky Fried Chicken and franchise owner Art Cocolin have also been actively involved, Lengling said.
“He comes to me and asks what we need,” she said. “I tell him we’re out of wet wipes and he gives me a box of hand wipes from the restaurant. We have some very avid supporters and they have really helped keep us afloat during the tough months.”
Boughner just wishes there was more she could do.
“It’s hard to keep things going,” Boughner said. “I know. When you do something for so long it’s hard to keep it going. But it is just so important. It makes me feel good that we can do this. I just wish I could do more.”
Those looking to do more can the weekend of Dec. 4 and 5 when Project Support Our Troops hosts is Christmas packing. Lengling said donations have been coming in a little more, but typically do close to the holidays. But the organization is always in need of more goods and cash donations.
“We don’t have enough to ship as much as we want to,” Lengling said. “Our goal is to ship 800 boxes.”
Items of interest are “snack-type things,” Lengling said, like candy, beef jerky, tuna and cracker packs, gum, etc.
“We try to put a few extra things in there at Christmas time,” she said. “Fun things.”
Then there is always the need for monetary donations. With the goal of 800 boxes, Project Support Our Troops is looking at postage charges of between $8,000 and $10,000.
“We need to bring a smile to their faces, even if it’s just for a couple seconds … especially over Christmas,” Lengling said.
While Lengling is encouraging donations for the Christmas packing, she reminds everyone that packages are sent each and every month and that the Christmas packing leaves Project Support Our Troops’ shelves empty.
“January and February are generally tough months,” she said. “We send every month. We need donations every month.”
Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help
The next packing session for Project Support Our Troops is Dec. 4 and 5 starting at 6 p.m. at Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52, 13240 Dunham Road, Meadville. Project Support Our Troops co-organizer Kim Lengling said the holiday packings are particularly exciting. “It’s elbow to elbow,” she said. “And I mean elbow to elbow. It’s a little more festive. Everyone wants to do that extra something over the holidays.”
-More information: Contact Kim Lengling at email@example.com or call 724-9099.
You can donate
Project Support Our Troops is seeking items and monetary donations to send to U.S. military personnel serving overseas. Items most in need are small packs of wet wipes, lip balm, small containers of foot powder, small bottles of hand sanitizer, beef jerky, trail mix, non-aerosol air freshener, chewable tabs of calcium, and Cracker Jacks.
Other items needed to send include tooth paste, tooth brushes, Kleenex packs, hand-held games, socks, Pringles, cookies, gum, hard candy, lunch-size trail mix, snack cracker packs, tea bags, AT&T prepaid phone cards, stationary, eye drops, tan-colored bandanas, underwear (for either males or females), shower scrubbies, instant coffee, playing cards, small containers of lotion, on-the-go drink mixes, crossword puzzles, cotton balls, Q-tips, pens and pencils, cards and letters of support, non-aerosol bug repellent, deodorant, tuna/cracker packs, Gummi Bears and sunflower seeds.
Items for Project Support Our Troops may be left at the following locations during their respective normal operating hours:
Area Shopper, Cochranton; Cambridge Springs Rehabilitation and Nursing Center; Classic Bedding Co., Conneaut Lake; Edinboro Manor; First Presbyterian Church, Meadville; Flick’s TV and Appliance, Meadville; Fox’s Sew n Vac, Downtown Mall, Meadville; Jeron Jewelers, Meadville; Laurie’s Embroidery, Meadville; The Meadville Tribune; Byham’s Insurance Service, 1098 Park Ave., Meadville, and 3323 Liberty St., Erie; Pedersen Insurance, Cochranton; Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52; Rolling Fields Inc., Conneautville; State Farm Insurance, Linesville; state Rep. John Hornaman, 2335 W. 38th St., Erie; state Rep. Brad Roae, Downtown Mall, Meadville; and Hagan Business Machines of Meadville Inc.
-More information: Contact Kim Lengling at (814) 724-9099 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Laurie Davis at (814) 547-4141 or by email at email@example.com.