Today, 1.4 million men and women serve in the U.S. military. A little more than four-tenths of one percent of the U.S. population stand on the line dividing the free world from tyranny during Christmas season.
In 2003, Homer Helter, a giant of the Collier County veterans community and founder of Homer Helter’s Military Mall, began sending packages to troops stationed in the Middle East. In 2005, Pastor Don Treglown of Faith Lutheran Church joined Helter in the endeavor of sending packages to troops. Helter died Oct. 2, 2016. Treglown continued supporting Helter’s mission of sending packages to troops every three months.
In November, Packages for the Troops sent 225 packages, bringing the total sent to more than 78 tons. The contents of each package cost less than $50. The total cost of the shipment was under $5,400.
The packages consist of snacks, toiletries, magazines and letters/cards from Collier students. The letters/cards from students are so touching, reviewing them for appropriate content before packing them is emotionally overwhelming when you think about who will receive them, where they are serving and under what circumstances.
The contents of each package are carefully scrutinized to ensure they comply with Department of Defense requirements and don’t violate customs laws of destination countries. For example, packages cannot contain liquids more than 8 ounces, razor blades, glass, mouthwash, toothpaste or pressurized containers. However, Silly String is particularly prized because it helps the troops detect deadly trip wires.
The boxes are U.S. Postal Service priority boxes designated for U.S. military. After the boxes are inspected and sealed they go to the Army Post Office in Tampa. From there, boxes are distributed to where the addressed troops are serving.
Until 2011, the names and addresses of troops came from Helter. Now the addresses are furnished locally by family members and friends of troops stationed around the world. Anyone who supplies a military name and address can request a package be sent to any troop, serving anywhere in the U.S. military. The Collier community is encouraged to furnish the names and addresses of family members and friends serving.
With thousands of U.S. troops around the world still actively engaged in the fight against terrorism, Helter’s volunteers are offering a way to let the men and women serving our country abroad know we haven’t forgotten them. In November, at Faith Lutheran Church, 4150 Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples, Helter’s volunteers came together to pack donated items for Christmas packages for the troops.
The next packing will occur at Faith Lutheran Saturday February 24, 8:30 AM We encourage everyone to provide donations from this list of items troops have requested. Join Helter’s volunteers in supporting our brave men and women.
Items that troops have requested:
» Cold drink mixes like Gatorade, Crystal Lite, Kool-Aid to add to bottled water.
» Slim Jims, beef or turkey jerky.
» Power bars, Trail Mix, cereal bars, granola bars.
» Sunflower seeds, nuts, peanut M&Ms
» Individual snacks, chips, crackers, cookies.
» Peanut butter and jelly, small-size plastic jars.
» Small sewing and manicure kits.
» Sunscreen and insect repellant, Chapstick and Carmex.
» Body wash, men’s and ladies’, under 8-ounce sizes.
» Shampoo, men’s and ladies, under 8-ounce sizes.
» Toothbrushes, no toothpaste.
» Deodorant, travel sizes.
» Foot powder, foot cream for athlete’s foot.
» Odor Eaters (for boots), Dr. Scholl’s foot pads, blister pads.
» Hand sanitizer, pocket size.
» Shaving cream, nonaerosol and good razors.
» Men’s and ladies’ boot socks, black or white.
» CDs and DVDs, used or new, current editions appreciated.
» Gift cards to purchase books for e-readers.
» Quality pens, small pads of paper, greeting cards for family and friends.
» Cough drops.
JB Holmes is an officer in VFW Post 7721 in Golden Gate.
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