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Washington County volunteers make scarves to keep troops cool

July 14, 2008|By JOSH SHAW

WASHINGTON COUNTY - When Gail Smith found out cooling scarves would cost her $14 each, she decided to make them herself.

"I looked up directions and tried to make one," said Smith, president of the Washington County chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. "It was not hard at all and I realized we could make them for less than 50 cents a scarf."

Smith and about 40 other volunteers from 10 area churches gathered July 7 at Mount Zion Lutheran Church in Rohrersville to help fashion about 675 scarves for U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.

Smith asked 23 local churches for donations to fund the scarf supplies and said her organization would match a donation of up to $1,400. By the time the volunteers met to make the scarves, almost $2,000 had been donated by the churches and Smith had nearly $3,400 -- more than enough money to buy the supplies.

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Smith said she was thrilled with the community's generosity and willingness to help.

"We only expected about 15 or 20 people, so the turnout was great," Smith said. "Everyone had a job to do and they asked when we could meet again."

Smith said her chapter has been working with Soldiers' Angels, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to military personnel and their families. The organization recommended the cooling scarves as something Smith's group could donate.

The scarves are soaked in water for 20 minutes and are then worn around the neck or head. Water-absorbing polymers, commonly used in gardening, can absorb water up to 400 times their weight and are put into the cloth scarves. Evaporation of the water keeps the person cool, and a single scarf can last for up to three days, which is ideal for soldiers stationed in desert areas.

Smith said she plans to hold another scarf-making session in the future to reach her goal of donating 1,500 to 2,000 scarves.

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