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Nanny Goes Door to Door to Find Entertainment for Troops

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2004 – Melissa Edwards works 55 hours a week as a nanny, but evenings and weekends she collects music -- but not for herself.

Instead, she's been collecting music for servicemembers in Iraq, going door-to- door and asking for donations. Though she'll take just about anything people want to give, she said, she's got more than enough stuff from the '60s.

Edwards, 35, is the founder of Tunes2Troops, a grassroots organization she started from her Pittsburgh home in August as a way to provide entertainment for servicemembers bound for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. So far, she has gathered 17 boxes of new and used CDs, DVDs and video games and shipped them to her close friend, Pamela Bates, wife of a servicemember at Fort Benning, Ga.

Bates was trying to get music CDs and DVDs for local troops who were deploying, and Edwards decided to help out. She began soliciting donations by handing out white paper fliers tied together with yellow ribbons. She put the fliers in mailboxes and doors in her community, but that effort didn't go far, she said.

"In six weeks, I collected 37 CDs, 30 of which were mine," she explained.

She called on local businesses for donations, but didn't get much of a response.

"That's when I really started to really get aggravated, because it seemed like such an easy, simple concept," she said. "Everyone has music that they no longer listen to."

She didn't give up.

Edwards then convinced the local "Pennysaver" shopper newspaper, the to run free advertisements for her organization. The ad eventually reached more than a million readers. "That's when things really started to pick up," she said.

When Seth Conner, a student at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh, read about Edwards in the local newspaper, he asked to join forces. He helped put together a network of campus drives across the country to collect music and movies. Soon, more than 100 colleges nationwide signed on help, she said.

In the meantime, Edwards also created a Web site, which has had more than 4,000 hits thus far, she said. On the site, she encourages visitors to register for the Tunes2Troops message board so they can interact with deployed troops.

Supporting the military is nothing new for Edwards.

Shortly after the first Gulf War in 1991, she got involved in Operation Dear Abby, writing letters to servicemembers in Kuwait. Today, she has befriended and keeps in contact with several soldiers serving in Iraq.

Edwards said it's important for America to support its troops, because "it helps their morale, which ultimately makes them better soldiers." That support also helps repay the sacrifices military men and women make, she added.

"The moment men and women sign up for the military, at that moment they start supporting you," she said. "I think it's our responsibility to do what we can for our troops, and more people should be doing it.

"These men and women are the heartbeat of this country," she continued. "They don't make a lot of money; the sacrifices they make aren't just their own, but their entire family's. And I don't think people realize the full brunt of what they have to go through."

Edwards said she is hoping to expand Tunes2Troops. She and Conner are trying to organize a concert where music and DVD and video-game donations will be accepted for admission. Because she can no longer go from house to house to collect all the CDs being donated, she asks that donations be sent "media rate" directly to the departure address for troops.

The address to send donations is:

PMB 132
2525 Auburn Ave.
Columbus, GA 31906

Edwards said donated items will be loaded into cargo containers and shipped along with deploying troops.

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