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Help pack boxes for U.S. soldiers

posted on May 27 2005 0 Comments

Los Angeles Daily News

Help pack boxes for U.S. soldiers

By Dennis McCarthy

Friday, May 27, 2005 – Odds and ends from around the Valley:

If you’re free Sunday or Monday and want to really get in the Memorial Day spirit, stop by the California Army National Guard Armory in Van Nuys and spend a few hours with Carolyn Blashek and her friends. They could use your help.

The founder of Operation Gratitude and her volunteers will be there from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., packing 25,000 packages that will be shipped to U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world, as well as those convalescing in hospitals stateside.

Every package will be individually addressed because that’s the way Blashek’s operation works. Each package goes to a specific soldier with a warm letter inside, saying thank you.

It started three years ago with a few dozen packages Blashek mailed from her Encino home to soldiers overseas who had no one writing to them.

Pretty soon, soldiers were writing and e-mailing back, giving Carolyn names of others who could use a letter and some goodies from home.

Soon, hundreds of volunteers — individuals and corporations — were donating their time and items for the troops. To date, more than 45,000 care packages have been sent to individual soldiers from strangers back home who care.

“I get a lot of the names from troops who have come home and told me they still have buddies over there; could we support them, too?” Carolyn said Thursday, getting ready for the big weekend.

“Or I’ll get e-mails from units that were there two years ago, came home, and are back again now, asking for our support again.”

Carolyn says she has enough volunteers helping her today and Saturday, but she could use some more help getting the packages out on Sunday and Monday.

If you can’t stay a few hours, consider dropping off a few items the troops have told Carolyn they could use. These include battery-operated mini-fans, bandanna cool ties that the soldiers dip in water and wrap around their heads, energy and protein bars, DVDs, phone cards and maybe the most important thing — personal letters.

The armory is at 17330 Victory Blvd.

How Operation Gratitude has grown and become such a success is due, in large part, to all the volunteers in the Valley who have signed on to help, including a lot of kids.

One of them, Craig Maxwell of Burbank, will be honored next month at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for organizing an effort with Boy Scouts from all over America to donate items to Operation Gratitude.

His Eagle Scout project collected six large truckloads of items valued at more than $15,000.

“Craig and his fellow Boy Scouts brought us cases and cases of stuff for the troops,” Carolyn said. “It was amazing.”

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