What started as a small operation nearly four years ago to collect items for troops overseas has turned into a large production. One volunteer described it as being “like an assembly line.”
Since that first collection of donations, food, socks, and more, a group at the Ahwatukee Recreation Center (ARC) has greatly expanded its effort to help American men and women overseas.
The first time they had enough items for one box. Now, they collect and send two different shipments each year of between 100 to 125 boxes.
They are currently collecting goods and donations for an April 13 ship date and will take help from the community up until April 10.
Boxes reach the soldiers one of two ways. Residents of the ARC and in the community who have children and grandchildren overseas can come forward and request that they are sent a box or two.
All the leftover boxes are driven to Luke Air Force Base and are shipped at no cost to ARC members, through a program called Operation Thunderbox.
“We get a lot of support from the clubs here at the ARC who recently did many different things to bring us items or donations,” ARC member Barb LeChaix said.
Since 2008, members of the ARC have shipped 650 boxes in six different shipments. They estimate that, for those boxes that are not sent to Luke Air Force Base, they have to pay more than $1,000 in shipping costs for each shipment.
“We have spent a lot in shipping costs, but it is definitely worth every penny,” ARC member Wanda Bassett said.
They have also been in contact with several schools in the area, including Archway Classical Academy in Chandler, who have students write personal letters to be sent with the boxes.
One time a student wrote a letter with a list of questions for a soldier and he wrote back and said that when he got out he would answer them in person. Sure enough, he showed up at the school months later.
“It just shows how much they appreciate these letters,” ARC member Sharon Gottlieb said.
To donate or drop off goods for the Support Our Troops program, there is a donation box inside the ARC’s main office, 5001 E. Cheyenne Drive.
They are asking for drink flavoring powder, beef jerky, socks (white or black), T-shirts (large or extra-large), playing cards, chips in canisters (no bags), lip balm, travel-sized sun block, granola bars, snack bars, trail mix, individual-sized snacks and cookies, and batteries.
For more information, contact Amy Nicholls at (480) 893 2549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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