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Cell phone lost in L.A., found in Iraq

posted on Apr 02 2004 0 Comments

<p><font face=’verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif’ size=’6′ color=’#000000′><center><b><a target=”_blank” href=’http://www.dailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,200%257E21377%257E2057717,00.html’>Cell phone lost in L.A., found in Iraq</a></b></center></font><p> <font face=’verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif’ size=’4′ color=’#000000′><center></center></font>
<p><font face=’verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif’ size=’-2′ color=’#000000′><b>By
Dennis McCarty
Staff Writer
Daily News</b></font>
<font face=’verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif’ size=’-1′ color=’#000000′><b>Friday,
April 02, 2004</b></font>
<P><i>Odds and ends from around the Valley:</i>

Here’s one the volunteers at Operation Gratitude thought you might enjoy.

The day after Thanksgiving, they were working in the California National Guard Armory in Reseda assembling gift packages to send to U.S. troops in Iraq when Sharon Howard noticed her cell phone was missing.

“We laughingly speculated that it might have fallen out of her pocket and was on its way to Iraq,” said Carolyn Blashek, who started Operation Gratitude in her Encino living room and has watched it grow until dozens of
local volunteers helped her ship out more than 8,000 packages to our troops in Iraq.

One of those packages landed on the cot of Army Spc. Chad Butenschon on Christmas morning. He couldn’t believe how generous the people of the San Fernando Valley were, sending soldiers all these nice things — and a cell phone, too.

Last Sunday morning, the phone in Howard’s home rang. It was Butenschon calling to thank her. He had just returned home from Iraq.

“He said when he opened the package on Christmas and saw the cell phone, he thought, wow, these people are generous,” she said, laughing.

“It was dead when he tried to turn it on, and he figured someone had probably dropped it into the package by mistake. He kept it with his belongings, and when he got home he charged it up and found my phone number stored init.”

Butenschon wanted her address so he could mail back her cell phone, but what he really wanted was to thank her and the other volunteers at Operation Gratitude for making last Christmas a little bit cheerier for a couple of hundred soldiers in his unit.

All the hours these dedicated volunteers have spent this past year gathering and sending out those gift packages to faceless soldiers is finally coming full circle, Blashek said.

“As the first rotation of troops starts arriving home, they’re starting to call us,” she said. “We’re finally getting to put a voice and a face with those packages.”

The next big push for Operation Gratitude will begin later this month — to get more care packages to our troops in Iraq for Memorial Day, May 31.
If you want to become a volunteer or donate to the cause, click on the “Donate” button on the front page, right side.

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