America Supports You: Delaware Group Dedicated to Deployed Troops
By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2007 Running a nonprofit organization can be strain on an individual’s time, space and resources. One home-front group’s leader says she relies on a specific form of aid through the tough times: divine intervention.
Frankie Mayo, founder of Operation AC, said the fund-raising strategy for her troop-support group is prayer.
“When God puts something on your heart to do, you just have to do it,” she said. “I pray at night before I go to bed about the issues that have come up, and the next morning God shows me what I’m supposed to do.”
Although Mayo’s organization has encountered occasional difficulties, it still has managed to send nearly $3 million worth of supplies to troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
Operation AC is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program helping home-front groups connect to members of the U.S. military and their families at home and abroad.
The Delaware-based group began when Mayo’s son and daughter-in-law were deployed to Iraq. The summer heat was so oppressive that bars of soap melted and cans of shaving cream burst. In an effort to do something positive and help boost the morale of deployed troops, Mayo started purchasing air conditioners to help make their lives a little more bearable.
Although her “kids” returned from their deployments three years ago, Mayo said that her efforts are far from over.
“I feel that whatever my husband and I can do to support the war, it’s our responsibility,” she said. “These troops are our brothers, sisters and children. They deserve our utmost respect and support.”
The family-run group continues to send over occasional batches of air conditioners, but its scope has broadened to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the men and women in uniform who are deployed.
Operation AC’s Web site, www.operationac.com, allows users to exchange e-mails and adopt individual servicemembers by purchasing items on their wish lists for “virtual care boxes.”
Through bulk mail, the organization helps troops get personal items such as hygiene supplies, music, games and movies, as well as replenishments of Defense Department-approved boots, helmet chin straps and other equipment.
“I would like to say a heartfelt thanks to all of you,” one soldier wrote to the group’s Web site. “Sometimes getting things from home is the only thing keeping us going.”
Mayo’s team also has worked on several special projects like “Boots from Bikers,” in which a local Harley Davidson store has donated more than 4,200 pairs of combat boots to troops.
Through its Web site, Operation AC also allows individuals to purchase boots for troops at a discounted rate. To date, more than $450,000 worth of footwear has been sent to the troops.
“We buy them for $4 more than we sell them for; God makes up the rest,” said Mayo. She said she believes that even though the manufacturer has increased prices, that shouldn’t be passed along to the organization’s supporters.
In addition to meeting the physical needs of soldiers, the group tries to meet their emotional needs as well.
Thousands of get well cards have been sent to wounded troops in combat support hospitals in Iraq through Operation AC. Mayo’s daughter, Olivia, started the effort two years ago when she was 11 years old. By sending cards of support directly to nurses at the hospitals, Olivia is able to get cards in the hands of servicemembers before they are evacuated from the country.
“What you have given blesses these precious men and women,” wrote a chaplain who is stationed at one of the hospitals on the Web site. “Your gifts enhance the holistic healthcare we provide for all those who proudly perform their sacred duty.”
The kindness of the organization hasn’t stopped at the gates of the forward operating bases and camps scattered throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. Operation AC is reaching out to others in need by sending clothing and shoes to Afghan orphanages. Each month, hundreds of boxes “hitch a ride” with the support items going to troops and are then distributed to needy Afghan children.
Vietnam veteran Mike Cormier has been involved with the organization since its inception. He packs every box that makes its way into the hands of soldiers.
“I remember when I was in ‘Nam,’ we didn’t receive the kind of stuff Frankie’s doing for troops,” he said. “I know from personal experience that it boosts morale to have support from back home. And I won’t quit what I’m doing until the last one comes home.”
Mayo is straightforward when asked why she continues to carry on this mission.
“I’m not here to have a job for myself; when the war is over, we will go away,” she said. “But the whole point is that one person can make a difference, and I have a responsibility to do my part.”