America Supports You: Illinois Group Plays Santa for Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 6, 2007 For three years, an Illinois group has made sure troops serving overseas have something to look forward to during the holidays.
“Last year we shipped over 10,000 homemade Christmas stockings filled with goodies to our deployed troops,” Patti Smith, a founder of “Central Illinois Proud Families of Marines” and mother of two Marines, said. “Our goal is to do many more (this year), as the need is great due to the recent troop surge.”
This year’s drive is already under way and will conclude Nov. 1. The group is hoping for donations of comfort, personal and food items to stuff the stockings, but cash is always appreciated, Smith said.
“We need to raise at least $50,000,” she said. “Since we are a (nonprofit) group, all gifts are tax deductible.”
The stockings will be stuffed and shipped during the first two weeks of November. This ensures a timely holiday arrival for those serving overseas, she said.
In addition to Operation Santa, Central Illinois Proud Families of Marines conducts other service projects benefiting troops and provides friendship and support to military family members.
The group’s work reaches well beyond the Marine Corps family.
“We are a 24-7 community here for all branches of our armed forces, family members and veterans,” Smith said.
Central Illinois Proud Families of Marines has found that mission is much more easily accomplished as a member of The Defense Department’s America Supports You program. The program connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
“We deeply appreciate the national exposure (America Supports You) has given us,” Smith said. “(It’s a great help) to anyone looking to network with us in central Illinois or nationwide.”