“U.S. Troop Care Package” relies 100% upon volunteers, donations, and financial contributions from the community. “U.S. Troop Care Package” began its first donation drive on March 22, 2003, at a Rally for America held on Columbia Center Boulevard, Tri-Cities, WA. Subsequently, we have held donation drives at the County Fair, banks, and on a regular basis in local parks, at grocery store parking lots, a TV station, in front of department stores, and on sidewalks at busy intersections. In addition, we have had donation boxes in grocery stores, drug stores and in businesses throughout the community.
Our first donation drive netted three pick-up truck loads full of donated items. A local Tri-Cities family donated the cost of a storage unit for the first few months, and it is where “U.S. Troop Care Package” stored, wrapped, and prepared the donated items for mailing for the past year. Working conditions in a small storage unit with no lights, heat, or air conditioning and having to stack boxes on top of one another was difficult. Mike Astley of Astley Transmission in Pasco, WA donated an 800 sq. ft. office to “U.S. Troop Care Package” on March 8, 2004. After moving in and seeing everything from wall to wall, we don’t know how we were able to do all that we did in that small space that we had before or for that long of a period of time . . . Now we are able to set up regular volunteer hours and work far more efficiently.
Celebrating our first anniversary, “U.S. Troop Care Package” was given the honor of proudly flying an American Flag that had been flown over Iraq during a combat reconnaissance mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on September 11, 2003 by a soldier from the Tri-Cities. The flag was passed from one person to another at our Support Our Troops Rally held on March 6, 2004 in the Tri-Cities so that everyone at the rally had the honor of flying the Flag.
On March 8, 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” filed as a Non-Profit Corporation. The name of the Non-Profit Corporation is FOUNDATION RESOURCE FUND. We will be filing for a 501C3 non-profit status from the IRS after April 15, 2004.
On Friday, March 16, 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” held an “Open House” for the public to see how we send Care Packages to our troops. Since that time we have had a number of requests for tours of our facility. On numerous occasions, individuals are so inspired at what we do, they leave in tears. It is an emotional experience for all to say the least.
The Washington State Potato Commission has been donating “Washington State Potato Chips” and writing paper and pens among other items, which are included in our Care Packages. The Potato Commission has also donated Washington State Potato Commission T-Shirts with a big baked potato on the back of the shirt for the wounded at Walter Reed Hospital and is shipping Potato Chips directly to Walter Reed Hospital for us. The Washington State Potato Commission has also been very generous with financial donations to help us with postage. We are very appreciative of all that they have done for us and our troops.
On June 15, 2004, Friendly Computers, Kennewick, WA donated a computer and printer to “U.S. Troop Care Package” making our jobs much easier.
Washington State Grange members from all over the State of Washington brought donations to their annual convention and on June 24, 2004, a large truck load of the collected donated items were brought to our facility. Every one of our bins was filled to capacity, including those for Walter Reed Hospital and Balad, Iraq. The Washington State Grange also collected financial donations to help with our postage costs. We are so very grateful to the Washington State Grange.
In July, 2004, Beautydoor.com donated about 30 cases of nail polish, lotions, and other products just for girls that we will be including in our Care Packages. We appreciate the donation very much. Female soldiers need to “feel like girls” once in awhile!
On July 20, 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” took about 4,500 pounds of donated items to Camp Murray in Tacoma, WA to be distributed to our troops in the Middle East. We had almost 400 Care Packages filled with over 3,000 books, video tapes, pillows, toiletries, snacks, etc. It was a very emotional day. Our trailer was backed up to the door and our volunteers along with soldiers, made a human chain handing off the packages from the trailer to inside of the building. One soldier in particular who had just returned from Iraq and who had been injured insisted on removing every Care Package from the trailer by himself even though he was asked to get out three times because they were afraid he would injure himself even more. That act of kindness was apparently his way of helping the soldiers he had left behind. All of us were extremely moved by his gesture. With the press we received we have received numerous offers of help from the other side of the state.
On August 13 and 14, 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” was joined by the local Marine Corps League, Tri-Cities Detachment #337 to sell “Support Our Troops” Car Magnets at four Albertsons Food Stores in the Tri-Cities area. Although the temperature was over 100 degrees each day, the fundraiser was extremely successful and showed what a supportive community we have. At one of the locations, a gentleman stopped by our booth and from his pocket pulled out a coin that he had been carrying for some time and gave it to us. The coin is in memory of his friend since childhood Army 2nd Lt. Benjamin J. Colgan, age 30 killed in Iraq on November 1, 2003. The front of the coin has Lt. Colgan’s picture, name, date of birth and the day he died. The reverse side of the coin reads: “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends. John-15:13.” All of us were very touched by this and we will proudly display this momentum on our Awards Wall at our facility.
Our Proud Volunteers, as we affectionately refer to them, have literally raided the local shoe stores on a regular basis and have brought in truck loads of shoe boxes used to send the Care Packages. We have also received pallets of donated boxes that help with our mailings. Our volunteers inspect each and every donated item to ensure that it is appropriate, such as meeting Foreign Custom requirements, and that each donated item is in its original container. Then each donated item is enclosed in Zip-Lock bags. The Zip-Lock bags are re-used by the soldiers to store and protect their wallets, pictures, etc., particularly in Iraq where the blowing sand has been brutal.
“U.S. Troop Care Package” obtains the end rolls from a local newspaper to use for wrapping paper, which is white, and our red, white, and blue mailing labels are then attached to the Care Package. On Fridays, the day we generally mail each week, we attach the Custom Forms to each Care Package.
Each Care Package contains a card with the following message:
OUR COMMUNITY EXTENDS OUR DEEPEST APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE FOR ALL THAT YOU DO FOR OUR COUNTRY . . . YOU MAKE ALL OF US PROUD TO BE AMERICANS.
To date “U.S. Troop Care Package” has received an estimated $500,000 – $700,000 in donated items and has mailed and/or delivered over 12,000 Care Packages. To date, “U.S. Troop Care Package” holds the three highest postage receipts from the Tri-Cities Mail Handling Facility.
On May 7, 2004, upon arriving at the Tri-Cities Mail Handling Facility, Pasco, WA to mail Care Packages to our U.S. Troops, there were quite a number of people waiting in line, each with a number. Generally we receive disparaging looks from postal customers as we have numerous large carts filled with Care Packages. However, once we walk through the crowds and tell everyone what we are doing their “frowns” generally turn to “smiles.” However, on this day a young gentleman walked up and exchanged his number with ours, which put us at the front of the line and the gentleman at the back of the line.
We rely solely upon financial contributions from the community to assist us with the costs related to postage, wrapping materials, and related incidentals. Each shoe box sized Care Package has contained an average of $100 in donated toiletries, personal care items, food, books, games, and miscellaneous items and costs an average of $12 in postage to mail.
The areas that we know of that we have already sent Care Packages to, include; Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Diego Garcia, Turkey, Kosovo, England, Iceland, South Korea, Okinawa, Japan, Bogotá, Columbia, Africa, Germany, and Italy and to ships deployed in the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and in the Gulf.
We understand that only one in five U.S. Troops actually receive Care Packages from home. Our Care Packages provide enough for the troops who receive them to share with their fellow troops. We have received letters and E-Mails from troops who have not only requested Care Packages for themselves, but for their fellow troops . In addition we have received requests for Care Packages from Commanding Officers for their troops, which shows great leadership and concern for those under their command. Care Packages are truly appreciated and show our troops the support they continue to have from home.
On October 6, 2003, “U.S. Troop Care Package” began “Operation Comfort.” “Operation Comfort” was initiated after a picture of a soldier receiving our Care Packages sent a picture of a fellow soldier sleeping on his helmet.
The community was notified that we needed donated fabric and volunteers to cut and sew the material into 12” X 12” pillows. Village Quiltworks, Richland, WA opened up their workshop to “U.S. Troop Care Package” and a steady stream of both male and female volunteers of all ages and from all over the community showed up with donated fabric and their sewing machines and pitched in to help cut and sew fabric and stuff the 12″ x 12″ pillows we are making to send to our troops for Christmas ‘2003. We estimated we were able to complete approximately 400 pillows that day and we still had enough fabric to create an additional 600+ pillows. A number of volunteers took fabric and filler home with them to finish. On Friday, October 31, 2003, almost 2,000 pillows were mailed to our U.S. Troops for Christmas 2003.
On Wednesday, February 11, 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” volunteers made a twelve hour trip to two military bases in Western Washington to personally deliver approximately 1,000 pillows so that soldiers being deployed could take the pillows with them. There were so many pillows in bags that when the doors of the Explorer were opened the pillows literally fell out. At the first stop, a female soldier being deployed to Iraq grabbed a pillow with American flags and hugged it. You had to have been there to see the joy on the faces of the soldiers. The soldiers had never seen anything like it and were so appreciative. Word from a Colonel on the trip overseas overheard one soldier asking another soldier to trade pillows with him because the pillow “reminded him of his wife’s nightgown.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties made pillows over a period of three weeks, ending February 20, 2004, for “U.S. Troop Care Package” to send to our troops. Ten children, ages 5 to 12, and under the individual mentoring direction of the Washington State University Clothing and Textile Association, received credits for their efforts. The Boys & Girls Club received a financial award from the Colgate Youth for America for their efforts in this project.
On Saturday, March 20, 2004, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Youth Conference focused on public service and consisting of about 500 local young people ages 16-18, made approximately 500 pillows for “U.S. Troop Care Package”“Operation Comfort.” They had some 50 sewing machines, 250 yards of material and 250 pounds of polyester fiber to work with. What a great project for young people!
We have so many different groups and individuals help us with “Operation Comfort”, from 4-H Clubs, grade schools, churches, senior centers, quilting groups, the American Legion, etc., even persons confined to nursing homes. The support we have for the troops is overwhelming!
There is a great need for our “Operation Comfort” pillows for the wounded who lie on liters for hours, without a pillow, awaiting medical evacuation enroute to their final destination. The pillows we have sent “have greatly motivated and inspired these individuals,” according to a Lieutenant requesting the additional pillows. To date “U.S. Troop Care Package” has made a commitment to send pillows to this field hospital until they ask us to STOP. On July 20, 2004, we were able to provide 2,500 pillows to the wounded at this hospital.Medical personnel familiar with these pillows have since requested them for a hospital at Ali Al Salem, Kuwait.
Donated fabric has continued to come in on a regular basis and it is estimated that to date, over $50,000 in fabric and materials has been donated for this project. Although our original goal was 600 pillows, “Operation Comfort” has now produced an estimated 15,000 pillows. It is so inspiring to see the outpouring of the community for our “Operation Comfort” effort. Ultimately, we would like to be able to send a pillow to every deployed soldier, and we are currently working to link up with other communities to assist in our effort. See our “Calendar” page for further details. We have received many letters and E-Mails from Iraq about the pillows. See our “Messages” page for comments from the soldiers.
In March, 2004, a local group began making Toiletry Bags for the wounded at Walter Reed Army Medical Facility, and in May, 2004, this same group began making Neck Coolers as part of “Operation Comfort.” The overall response to “Operation Comfort” has been so great that “Operation Comfort” will continue to expand and continue to be an ongoing project. We have sent over 1,000 Neck Coolers and we have just received enough fabric to make another 3,000 Neck Coolers.
In July, 2004, an individual from a neighboring community came into the office. He had recently returned from Iraq, where he had been an Air Force Medic and had heard about “U.S. Troop Care Package” while there. He made a comment that the soldiers would love to have Pocket Flags and water guns. The next day a member of the Prosser, WA American Legion Auxiliary and Benton City, WA Veterans of Foreign Wars came in with 1,000 Pocket Flags and a few days later about 250 water guns showed up! Since that time we have received thousands of Pocket Flags from American Legions all across the state of Washington. These things happen to us all of the time. We have a need…and it is fulfilled.
“U.S. Troop Care Package” has since purchased six bolts of flag fabric, each bolt containing 580 American Flags. We are seeking groups of young people to cut out each American Flag, fold the flag to regulation, and then package these American Flags to put into our Care Packages so that each soldier will have a “piece of home” to carry with them at all times.
“PROJECT WALTER REED,” “PROJECT BALAD,” and “PROJECT ALI AL SALEM, KUWAIT.”
“Project Walter Reed” is an effort begun in February, 2004 by “U.S. Troop Care Package” to send Care Packages to hospitalized soldiers currently at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Our first Care Packages were delivered on March 17, 2004. We understand that the soldiers really appreciated the pillows and the clothing items. Some soldiers were even “horse trading,” giving up one of the items in their Care Package in exchange for candy, for instance, from another soldier. Letters written by 2nd grade students were even hung on their walls. See our “Calendar” and “Shopping List” pages for details.
On April 3, 2004, John Miska, one of the veterans with Adopt A Soldier and Adopt My Soldier who has been personally delivering our Care Packages to soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital, was delivering our Care Packages to two wounded soldiers when we called to see how his day went and we were able to talk with the two soldiers. One of the soldiers indicated that “God was working behind the scenes to let us know he was watching.” On April 17, 2004, Sgt. McKenzie, a soldier from Tri-Cities, WA at Walter Reed Hospital recovering from injuries sustained in Iraq phoned us to thank us for the Care Package he had also just received from John Miska and his group. All of the soldiers have been very appreciative of the support.
On May 12, 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” held a homecoming for Sgt. McKenzie at the local airport. The news media indicated it was the largest attended homecoming of its kind. On May 27, 2004, two second grade classes from Edwin Markham Elementary School toured our facility. The students had been writing letters all year long to soldiers, which were included in our Care Packages. The second graders each made two pillows with letters to soldiers attached and gave them to us to mail, along with almost $200 they had collected in pennies to help with postage costs. Sgt. McKenzie was there to talk with the students and tell them how much letters and Care Packages are appreciated and was able to meet second grader Jantzen Filbrun whose letter was enclosed in the Care Package he received while at Walter Reed Hospital.
“U.S. Troop Care Package” sent seventy Care Packages to the medical personnel at a field hospital in Balad, Iraq. Word back is that the “Operation Comfort” pillows were great “hug me” pillows for belly wounds. In addition, the medical personnel indicated that the wounded soldiers could use underwear, socks, and slippers. We are also working on sending individual serving sized food items. See our “Calendar” and “Shopping List” pages for details.
“BOOKS AND PUZZLES” AND “MOVIES AND MUSIC”
On December 19, 2003, The Music Machine, Kennewick, WA donated over $5,600 worth of musical equipment consisting of two guitars, a drum set, amplifiers, tuners, etc. On December 24, 2003, the equipment was mailed to an R & R facility in Baghdad where troops will have access to the equipment. On January 13, 2004 we were notified that the equipment had been received. An article entitled “Donation to Baghdad R & R site is music to soldier’s ears” was published on the front page of “The Old Ironside Report” on Friday, June 4, 2004.
In the month January 2004, “U.S. Troop Care Package” began receiving “gently used” donated paperback books from the BookWorm, Richland, WA to send to our troops in every Care Package. The community has donated a number of “gently used” puzzles that we have sent to troops in the field and to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. To-date we have sent over 4,000 books. In the month of July, 2004 “U.S. Troop Care Package” began a donation drive for “Movies and Music.” We have asked the community to donate “gently used” DVDs, CDs, and Video tapes to send to the troops. True to form, the community has come forward to the extent that we now include “Movies and Music” in all of our Care Packages.