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Local group sends care packages to soldiers serving overseas

POSTED September 30, 2011 9:42 p.m.

Local organization Soldiers Far From Home has sent a whopping 11,000 pounds of care package goodies to soldiers overseas in the last eight years. Sheila Wilmouth, coordinator of the care packages for soldiers effort, said that the group relies on community donations to send a little piece of home to servicemen and women deployed in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. The group is holding a fundraising spaghetti dinner to help cover the cost of shipping their next big delivery, which will go out just in time for the holidays.

“We started out when a family member was deployed and here we are, eight years later. We have shipped over 11,000 pounds as of June,” Wilmouth said.

One of Soldiers Far From Home’s biggest deliveries weighed over 1,500 pounds and was sent to five different units overseas. The care packages include hygiene items, snacks and cold weather hats.  Wilmouth said they accept donations of everything from deodorant to Doritos. Personal care items like shampoos, small containers of foot powder, lotion, baby wipes and other various items are always needed.

“I tell people that the little bottles they get at hotels are the perfect size. They can fit travel-size items in their packs,” Wilmouth said.

Donations of snack foods are also accepted. Beef jerky, nuts, trail mix, individual packs of cookies and chips and other small snacks are greatly appreciated in countries where those food items are not available. Wilmouth said anyone who has questions about donating can call her at 605-1026.

Wilmouth said she ships the care packages through the U.S. Postal Service, and shipping costs can be in the hundreds of dollars. Soldiers Far From Home sends hundreds of care packages and using small pre-paid boxes is not an option.

“We ship it the way we do because it’s more practical. And how much we raise determines how much we can afford to ship,” Wilmouth said.

Soldiers Far From Home is hosting a spaghetti dinner to help raise funds for assembling and shipping care packages. The dinner will be held at 5 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the VFW Hall on Linwood Avenue in Turlock. Tickets will cost $10 per adult and $5 per child under 12 years old.  There will also be a desert auction, 50/50 auction, and a Dutch auction.  There will be a pool tournament at the VFW Hall from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. with an entry fee of $10 plus one donated item, $2 of each entry fee will go directly to Soldiers Far From Home.

Anyone who would like to make a donation to Soldiers Far From Home, or who is available to help sort care packages in the last few weeks of November can call Wilmouth at 605-1026.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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