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Firm enlists workers, clients to send packages to unit in Iraq

October 08, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- When Tracy Schmidt promised to send a care package to a client in Iraq, she thought she would send one box of comforts from home.

But when news of her efforts spread throughout her company, Con-way Freight, the Greencastle-based account executive's idea snowballed into Operation Windhorst.

The mission: collect as much as possible for Lt. Col. Jim Windhorst and his Air Force unit stationed in Iraq.

Employees and clients along the East Coast signed up for duty, and within a month Schmidt said pencils, playing cards, razors, candy and more filled her cubicle, taking up every inch of workspace.

What started with a promise to one client quickly became a company effort to support the troops.

"We sent about 44 boxes, from service centers all over the East Coast," she said. "It was incredible. It felt good to help out."

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Con-way Freight is a staunch supporter of American troops, especially citizen soldiers, she said.

So it made sense to Schmidt when Windhorst was deployed away from his job at World Kitchen in Greencastle that she send him a care package.

However, word of her project spread quickly thanks to Schmidt's boss, Jeff Kline, regional sales manager for the Philadelphia region.

"I thought it was a good idea," Kline said. "This year, especially, we seemed to forget that there are still 140,000 troops over there. Here we knew someone there who was in a position of leadership, and through him we could reach many men and women."

All it took was a few e-mails and some phone calls, and Kline said service centers in Maryland, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania began collecting items for Windhorst and his unit.

Many hands make an easy job, Kline said.

Within a month, Schmidt received more donations than she could handle alone, he said.

Though Con-way paid for Schmidt to send $400 worth of boxes from Greencastle, Operation Windhorst was truly a company effort, she said.

As for Windhorst, Schmidt said she decided it was best to keep him in the dark on just how many boxes were coming his way.

Receiving more than 40 packages came as a shock to Windhorst, Schmidt said.

"He e-mailed me thanking me for the packages and said he was surprised when, one day, 40 packages arrived for him," she said.

While Operation Windhorst closed in early September, Kline said he would like to send packages as often as every year.

"My hope is that, moving forward, we can do this every year," he said. "Not for Windhorst, of course, but we could find someone else, an employee or a friend or just a name from the (government) of someone who needs stuff."

Con-way Freight operates a service center in Greencastle just off Interstate 81, Exit 1.

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