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America Supports You: Yellow Ribbons Tie in to Troop Support

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2004 – The Harrisburg, Ill., duo of Amy Oxford and her mother, Kathy Williams, are knee-deep in packages to send to troops.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Capt. William P. Miller, who is deployed to Iraq from Fort Hood, Texas, makes sure Santa has his Christmas wish list. Miller is a regular recipient of Southern Illinois Yellow Ribbon Campaign care packages. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Soon their local effort became national, as they received more and more requests to support deployed troops from across the nation.

The organization, which is in the process of gaining nonprofit status, serves as a clearinghouse for those who want to send care packages to the troops. Each box is packed according to individual wants and needs that servicemembers indicate on questionnaires provided in initial welcome packages.

As with many support organizations, the holidays mean special efforts for the organization.

Last year during the first "Holiday Hugs to our Heroes" effort, Oxford said, monetary donations far surpassed the items donated. This year they had a windfall of donated items for the 2nd Annual Holiday Hugs to our Heroes project, she said. For example, the group received a significant donation of goods from the Department of Motor Vehicles in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

But having the items to ship is only half of the equation. The other half is having enough postage to get them in the mail.

"We're falling thousands of dollars short," Oxford said. "I'd say we need a good $10,000 to get everything out. Right now, we figured at (an average of) $20 a box we've just got enough to mail 250."

Mailing deadlines are quickly approaching. Some of the packages have to be in the mail by Dec. 6 and the rest by Dec. 11 to ensure they get to the troops by Christmas.

And just as the need for postage, funding and goods is never ending -- personalized packages go out year round -- the database of names of troops requesting packages keeps right on growing.

"I had a commander (from the Army) contact me about a week ago, and he gave me 180 names of people that had requested a care package," Oxford said.

The numbers of troops in need of a little tender, loving care from home may keep growing, and the donations -- both goods and cash -- may ebb and flow. But, the women, with the help of Oxford's 4-year-old daughter, Callie, keep plugging away. And though there is no material benefit for them, Oxford says it's well worth the effort.

"We get as excited about the mail coming in as the mail going out," Oxford said in reference to the support they've received from across the country. "The benefits we get far exceed any kind of pay you could get in a paid job."

She suggested interested supporters watch the group's Web site for information about upcoming special efforts. The Valentine project is set to kick off near the first of the year, Oxford said.

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Related Sites:
Southern Illinois Yellow Ribbon Campaign

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