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Basement Project Grows in Support of Troops

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2004 – A grassroots effort, started in Connecticut two years ago to support troops fighting the war on terrorism, has grown into a nonprofit organization that has volunteers in several states.

"It's bigger than I ever thought it would be," said Andi Grant, president and founder of Give2TheTroops, Inc. The wife of a Marine reservist said she started the "very, small basement project" when her husband Brian was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom in December 2002.

"I knew my husband would receive many letters and packages from me, but my concern was for other troops who didn't receive mail from family or friends," she said. "I was worried about their morale."

Grant said sending packages helped take her mind off worrying about her husband and also gave her son, Ryan, who was also very worried about his father, something to be involved in.

Grant contacted her son's elementary school, choir and friends. "Everyone was ecstatic to help," she added. "Word spread quickly, and cards and donations for the troops arrived daily at our doorstep. Our list of troops kept growing. The more troops that wrote us, the more packages we sent. In our first month, we sent 129 boxes. The next month, we sent out 232."

To date, Grant said the organization has sent more than 5,000 packages. "We've stopped counting," she added. "That's not important to us."

What is important, she stressed, is supporting the troops. "We continue to support our troops and send them letters of encouragement and care packages to let them know we care about them," added Grant. "Some troops have given donations to help other troops. They are, without a doubt, the most selfless people I know -- I am in awe of them."

Grant said her volunteer base is "just incredible."

There are subgroups in California and North Carolina, and another planned for Oklahoma. The original organization is incorporated in Connecticut and is in the process of obtaining its tax-exempt status.

Grant received the Red Cross Community Impact Award for her work with Give2TheTroops. The organization also received a letter from Thomas O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, praising its efforts and achievements.

"It's not about the awards," said Grant. "It's not about egos. It's about helping the troops."

And the troops, she said, appreciate the work of the countless volunteers who donate time and money.

In fact, two Marines, who are home convalescing from injuries they received supporting the global war on terror, plan to visit Grant and her family this weekend in Connecticut to say thanks for the packages they received while deployed.

One of the young men had several shrapnel wounds and is blind in one eye, said Grant. "It will be extremely emotional," she said.

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