America Supports You: Troops Get More Than A Ton of Gourmet Coffee
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2006 For the past six months, troops overseas have been getting a high dose of caffeine thanks to a partnership between a group dedicated to supporting combat troops and a family-owned coffee company.
America Supports You member group Packages From Home partnered with Lindsey Gourmet Coffee, in Phoenix to send 3,000 pounds of coffee to troops deployed in combat zones. Here, Marines from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force pose with a coffee shipment in Camp Fallujah, Iraq, May 14. Clockwise from top left, Sgt. Wenzel, Master Sgt. Wolbaum, Cpl. Marcell, Master Sgt. McDonald, Master Sgt. Harold, Sgt. Wilson, and Lance Cpl. Brandy Wilson. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
In December, Lindsey Coffee Company, in Phoenix teamed up with "Packages From Home," an Arizona nonprofit group, to send over 1,500 pounds of coffee to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, the two groups have teamed up twice more, sending more than 3,000 pounds in total.
"They stepped up to the plate and did something the major coffee companies aren't doing," said David Whitten, director of marketing and media relations for Packages From Home.
The partnership began after Whitten appeared on a local radio show to talk about the troop-support efforts Packages From Home has made since its inception in March 2004, he said. The nonprofit group was sending an average of 1,500 care packages per month to deployed troops, but good coffee donations were hard to come by. Dave Lindsey, the Lindsey Coffee Company's owner, and Josh Parrott, its vice president, heard about the broadcast and got in touch with Packages From Home founder Kathleen Lewis, offering a large supply.
"Then in February, they contacted us again and said, 'Well, it's time to ship some more coffee, Dave,' so they made another big donation," Whitten said. "We went to their plant and packed it up."
The Pentagon Channel filmed the latest packing party in March, in which more than 700 pounds of coffee were boxed up in two hours. Whitten said he appreciates the volunteers who have worked on the project and become coffee-packing pros. State and nationwide connections have helped the effort as well.
Packages From Home is part of "America Supports You," a Defense Department program highlighting grassroots and corporate support for the nation's troops and their families.
Local military members also play a big role in the group's efforts. "Our local Marine Corps Reserve unit is just absolutely awesome," Whitten said of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, Bulk Fuel Company C, based in Phoenix.
"Whenever we need somebody in uniform, the Marines are always there," he said. "Whenever we need a color guard presentation for an event, they're always there."
To date, the group has shipped over 26,000 packages to combat troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. "Anybody that's in an area of combat operations and signs up on our Web site, we'll see that they get care packages," Whitten said. He added that the group provides pen pals and answers e-mails too.
"Receiving packages out here is like gold," said Marine Lance Cpl. Brandy Wilson, an administration clerk responsible for distributing mail to the Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force on Camp Fallujah, Iraq. "To get little goodies and hygiene products and special things from complete strangers feels like a million bucks."
Wilson said she was amazed when the coffee shipments started arriving to her unit, not only at the volume of coffee, but at how her fellow Marines reacted. "People were coming in with their coffee cups and canisters begging for it. It was hilarious!" she said.
To spread the wealth, Wilson said her unit plans to send several boxes out to Marines on the Iraqi borders and other areas that have little chance at such coffee conveniences.
"I can't thank the American people enough," she said. "It's awesome, & truly amazing to know we have people out there supporting us."