Thursday, March 18, 2004

Packages keep coming

Indiana group keeps soldiers supplied with sundries, snacks

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kathy Hogue (left), Nancy Spears (center) and Linda Teke put "We Care Packages" together for people serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. A Moores Hill, Ind., group buys and sends the packages.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/STEVEN M. HERPPICH
MOORES HILL - The soldiers want pre-sweetened Kool-Aid and Little Debbies.

And sunscreen and lip balm, cigarettes and magazines, insoles to give comfort to clunky military boots and flea collars to keep away sand fleas.

And every week since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, folks in this small Southeastern Indiana town 12 miles north of Aurora have been more than happy to oblige.

A group of residents in Moores Hill - population 635 - has met weekly at the tiny post office here for more than two years, preparing and mailing packages to American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and the Navy support facility in Diego Garcia, an island off India.

And these are people the Moores Hill residents have never met.

"Sometimes I think people forget about our troops, but we don't want to do that," said Nancy Spears, a postal worker here who has helped raise money, donate goods and put together care packages for soldiers and sailors in far parts of the world.

Their service project started in October 2001, when Spears' daughter, who was in the Air National Guard, gave them a half-dozen names of American military members sent to invade Afghanistan.

Since then, the group - calling themselves "We Care Packages" - has spent nearly $20,000 sending the packages to scores of people serving overseas.

And that's just for the shipping costs.

"We're just trying to bring a little bit of home to them," said Kathy Hogue of Moores Hill. "Right after 9-11 everyone was patriotic and really cared about our soldiers. But these guys are still out there. Without them, who knows, another 9-11 could happen. They're keeping us safe."

They have to deal with some mailing restrictions. When soldiers were first sent to Afghanistan, they could only receive packages one pound or less. (They can receive larger packages now.) Certain magazines - for example, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue - are no-no's in Muslim countries, as are pork products such as Slim Jims.

The mailers have gathered some donations - from bake sales, bucket brigades, bagging groceries and companies such as Procter & Gamble - but say they are running short on money. Still, they plan to keep sending packages.

"Anything you take for granted in our country, they don't get out there," Hogue said. "It's like Christmas when they get a Reese's cup."

Money or product donations can be sent to:We Care Packages, P.O. Box 100, Moores Hill, IN 47032 Checks should be made out to "We Care Packages."

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