America Supports You: Group Prepares 70,000 Care Packages for Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2008 Though Halloween still is about two weeks away, preparations have begun to make sure Operation Gratitude’s 6th Annual Holiday Drive ships 70,000 care packages to troops during the upcoming holiday season.
“As in the past, we will send Operation Gratitude care packages to every servicemember whose name we receive who is deployed in a hostile … [area] or on naval ships at sea,” said Carolyn Blashek, founder of California-based Operation Gratitude. “Our packages have, on average, about 50 items, so there is plenty to share with comrades.”
Because she would prefer that each servicemember received a package addressed to them specifically, Blashek said, Operation Gratitude requests that units send a full roster.
The boxes always contain the tried and true, including Halloween candy. Last year, the group received several tons of candy, which it included in packages to troops, Blashek said.
“Candy is always a favorite item in our packages, either for the servicemembers themselves or to give out to the children in the communities they serve,” she said. “We learned that many stateside dentists were buying back Halloween candy from their patients and that schools were collecting candy from their students and were looking for something to do with all that candy.”
She said the arrangement was a “win-win” situation for all involved.
This 6th annual drive will mark a significant milestone for both Operation Gratitude and the troops they serve. “We will assemble the 400,000th care package on Saturday, Dec. 13, and we hope, like our previous milestone packages, that it will have a surprising gift as well,” Blashek said.
Blashek won’t hint at what the 400,000th box will contain, but previous milestone packages have included tickets to professional sporting events and other equally impressive goodies. One item in each of those other boxes has been far and away the best part of the surprise items: a new vehicle.
Operation Gratitude is starting early this year. The Van Nuys National Guard Armory will come alive with a packing assembly line beginning Oct. 18.
“We have eight additional days scheduled in November through mid-December to assemble packages,” Blashek said.
Volunteers will continue to ship the 70,000 care packages through the end of the year, she added.
Operation Gratitude is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.