As we enjoy the holiday season from the comfort of our cozy homes in Ahwatukee Foothills, more than 170,000 men and women are far from home serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A local nonprofit organization, called Packages From Home, has been working tirelessly to send care and comfort packages to deployed military personnel. Last Sunday, Packages From Home had a booth set up at the Ahwatukee Foothills Farmers Market to collect items to include in care packages.

“The farmers market is allowing us to have a booth on the third Sunday of every month,” said Jan Doughty, a board member for Packages From Home. “Several people donated socks and games at the Farmers Market, and socks are one of the top 10 items on the soldiers’ wish lists.”

Deployed troops can sign up to receive packages on Packages From Home’s Web site, www.PackagesFromHome.org. People interested in donating can also log on to the Web site to pick a soldier to send a package to.

“Each package costs $12.50 to send, and we include a food package with things the soldiers request like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, canned tuna, beef jerkey and snack-sized fruit cups,” Doughty said. “We also send a hygiene package that includes socks, toothpaste, a toothbrush, body wash and deodorant.”

According to Doughty, items that may seem trivial can mean the world to the troops.

“One thing that is really popular right now amongst the troops is flavored drink packets,” she said. “The water tastes really bad over there, so they drop the packets in to drink their water.”

With the current economic climate and sweeping budget cuts from the state of Arizona, Packages From Home is seeking more donations than ever.

“We used to receive money from the state to cover some of our postage costs, but that budget was swept by Gov. Brewer this year,” Doughty said. “We had to make it up with private and corporate donations, but we found that people were very charitable even during this tough economic time.”

When soldiers receive packages from Packages From Home, they often write letters of thanks. Doughty hopes that people will continue to donate as the year draws to an end.

“Our packages have the foods they remember from home that they can’t get overseas and some of the comforts from home that they aren’t able to get,” she said. “It reminds them of home and why they’re there doing their job.”

If Ahwatukee Foothills residents do not want to wait until the next Farmers Market when Packages From Home will have a booth set up on Jan. 17, they can contribute their time to sew cool ties or pillow cases for the soldiers’ plane rides overseas.

“We have pillow cases that were donated from Continental Airlines that need to be sewn. There are also instructions for making cool ties on our Web site, which cool down soldiers’ necks during the summer time,” Doughty said. “You can just make them at home and drop them off.”

Drop-off locations can be found by visiting www.PackagesFromHome.org.

Doughty has been working with Packages From Home for about a year, and she encourages people to become involved in the organization regardless of their views on the war.

“I felt drawn to the soldiers, especially because I have a close friend whose son was deployed a couple of times in Iraq,” she said. “Even though a lot of my friends and family don’t necessarily believe in the war, we believe in the soldiers and want to support them.”

To become involved or donate to Packages From Home visit their booth at the Ahwatukee Foothills Farmers Market on Jan. 17 or visit their Web site, www.PackagesFromHome.org.

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