“We try not to forget them,” Kim Straughn of Meadville said of why she was packing the small white box Saturday morning with play cards, toiletries, snacks and other small items to boost the morale of U.S. military men and women serving overseas.
However, Project Support Our Troops is in danger of not making its goal of sending out 800 care packages this Christmas to active-duty American troops stationed overseas.
It’s not for a lack of volunteers, but a lack of items.
“Right now, we need items,” said Laurie Davis, one of the organizers of Project Support Our Troops, the local all-volunteer effort. “It’s typical of our first packing. I think people don’t realize Christmas is coming so quickly and we have to have time to get the boxes shipped.”
The group hopes to send out a total 800 Christmas care packages between Saturday’s event and one this Wednesday night, but right now there’s not enough donated items to fill that many boxes.
Davis said the group wanted to fill about 400 boxes during Saturday’s packing session at Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52 in Vernon Township, but only about 225 care packages were put together.
Kim Lengling, another of the Project Support Our Troops organizers, hopes the public will respond.
“We want people to give until it hurts — they (military personnel) give until it hurts when it comes to protecting our freedom,” said Lengling.
“It’s overwhelming how much the community can come together to help,” said Straughn, who got involved in the packing effort a few years ago. She did so as a way to show patriotism when her daughter did her high school senior project on Support Our Troops.
Straughn’s daughter, Amanda Bowman, 20, has been in the U.S. Navy for about the past 18 months and currently is serving overseas as a yeoman, while Straughn’s son, Cory Bowman, 23, has been in the Navy four years and is a hull technician.
Giving up a little bit of time, buying a few items and helping pack boxes is a small price to pay to boost the morale of a soldier, sailor or airman serving overseas, said Brandie Olsen of Cochranton.
Olsen recently joined a military support group, Navy for Moms, since her son, Zackery, will join the Navy this coming June.
She was looking for an organization where she could aid in some way those in the military when she came across Project Support Our Troops.
“They’re helping to keep our freedom, this is the least I can do,” Olsen said.
Crawford County has fewer than 800 active duty military personnel overseas, but the boxes aren’t just for those in the military from Crawford County or even Pennsylvania. It’s the morale boost the small, item-filled box gives to any military recipient that’s most important, according to Davis.
“When we send to people serving, we don’t say it’s just for Crawford County or Pennsylvania (personnel),” said Davis. “Those serving from Pennsylvania aren’t going to say they’re just going to protect Pennsylvania — they’re protecting everybody.”
While Christmas is the main focus by Project Support Our Troops, the group also continues to send about 100 boxes per month throughout the year.
“It’s never too late to donate,” said Davis. “What doesn’t go out at Christmas will go out in January or the next month.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.
You can help pack
The next packing session for Project Support Our Troops is Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. at Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52, 13240 Dunham Road, Meadville. The post is located just west of Meadville near the intersection of Dunham and Rogers Ferry roads.
You can donate
Project Support Our Troops always seeks items to send to U.S. military personnel serving overseas.
Items most in need are small packs of: wet wipes, lip balm, foot powder, hand sanitizer, instant coffee packets, beef jerky, non-aerosol air freshener and Cracker Jacks.
Other items in need are: small sizes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, small Kleenex packs, socks, hand-held games, Pringles, small packs of cookies, small packs of gum, small packs of trail mix, hard candy, snack cracker packs, tea bags, AT&T pre-paid phone cards, stationery, eye drops, bandanas (tan), underwear (male/female), shower scrubbies, playing cards, small size lotion, On the Go drink mix, crossword puzzles, cotton balls, Q-tips, pens/pencils, cards/letters of support, non-aerosol bug repellent, deodorant, tuna/cracker packs, gummy bears, sunflower seeds.
There is one item the troops are requesting NOT be sent and it isn’t Spam — it’s ramen noodles.
Items for Project Support Our Troops may be left at the following locations during their respective normal operating hours.
3 Gals Gourmet, Chestnut Street, Meadville; 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; Kentucky Fried Chicken, Park Avenue Plaza, Meadville; Laurie’s Embroidery, Meadville; The Meadville Tribune; Byham’s Insurance Service, 1098 Park Ave., Meadville, and 3323 Liberty St., Erie; Pederson 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.