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Boxes packed for troops serving abroad

November 29, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

KNOXVILLE, Md. -- It was like an assembly line Sunday as dozens of workers passed by boxes on the floor, dropping holiday cards into them.

Others sorted food items for the packages while the squawking sound of packaging tape ripping from rolls echoed in the room as volunteers sealed the boxes.

The 540 boxes of cards, personal hygiene items, phone cards and "goodies" that were made up at Camp Manidokan along Harpers Ferry Road are to be sent to members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Korea, said Lynn Jones, leader of the South Washington County Military Support Group, who led the effort.

The group started sending the packages seven years ago to military members serving in Iraq, Jones said.

Volunteers made up the packages after learning that some military members do not receive anything from the states while they are serving in those areas, Jones said.

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"We were heartbroken," Jones said.

The holiday greeting cards, which come from groups such as churches and schools, numbered 12,000 the first year of the effort, Jones said.

Last year, 103,000 cards were sent and 79,004 will go out this season, Jones said.

Personal hygiene items like deodorant, toothbrushes and baby wipes are sent to military members because they are sometimes in remote areas and don't have access to them, Jones said.

The packages will be sent to 90 service personnel. Each will receive six boxes to be distributed to other military members, Jones said.

About 60 volunteers on Sunday packed items, which were collected from the public and from businesses.

Boxes on the floor inside a room at the camp Sunday were filled with items like pencils, foam cushion shoe insoles, batteries, notebooks, bubble gum, fruit bars, crackers and lollipops.

One of the volunteers looked at a bottle of Tabasco sauce.

"Something to spice up the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)?" another worker asked.

After some of the packages were prepared, volunteers formed a line as they passed the sealed boxes out the door of the building and into a trailer.

The packages were expected to be taken to the Keedysville post office Sunday night, then be sent to their destinations Monday, Jones said.

It will take about a week for the boxes to arrive, depending on their destinations, Jones said.

Among those working on the packages Sunday was Dante Kimble of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Kimble was in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne and served during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

When he was serving overseas, Kimble said he used to receive packages like the ones being made Sunday.

Kimble said he cried when he started making up the packages three years ago.

"I made a promise that as long as I'm living, I'm going to come out here and get this thing going," Kimble said.

Stefan Bockstanz of Hagerstown said he decided to help put packages together after his aunt told him about the project.

Bockstanz said a lot of the people involved in the effort had time off for Thanksgiving.

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