American Legion Post 50 and the Scotland County chapter of the American Red Cross have teamed up to help Scotland County show its appreciation for U.S. troops deployed overseas this holiday season.
“Care packages have not been coming over into Afghanistan like they once did, and there is a definite need for these items there,” said Carol Ann Lentz, executive director of the Scotland County Red Cross chapter. “We had a meeting with the American Legion about how we could partner a few weeks before and of course they wanted to help with this.”
Both organizations will collect food and personal hygiene items until Nov. 16 to build care packages for deployed military units at Christmas.
“They’ll be going to the Red Cross centers that we have at each of the four operating bases in Afghanistan to be dispersed among the soldiers there,” said Travis Stone, a member of Legion Post 50 and retired U.S. Army who has himself been deployed several times.
Some of the care packages may even end up in the hands of local service members, as the North Carolina National Guard 151st Engineering Company, based in Laurinburg, has been deployed in Afghanistan’s Zabul province since August.
“Feasibly this could be going to our local National Guard,” said Lentz.
Due to restrictions, donations should be limited to the suggested items: cookies, Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, granola bars, nuts, trail mix, snack crackers, gum, beef jerky, drink mix packets that can be added to a bottle of water, and other prepackaged snacks. In addition, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, reusable cleaning cloths, and lens cleaners are also welcome.
“There’s a very specific list of what can be sent into the country, and these are the things that the troops have said that they really needed,” said Lentz. “One of the things that stood out to me was the lens cleaner for goggles and eyeglasses - some things that we really take for granted.”
Many of the listed items will come in handy for military members operating in the field.
“A lot of the troops that need the packaged items, they will go out on missions and sometimes they won’t be back for three or four days at a time,” said Stone. “They need to take those with them on missions in the field in villages that they are supporting or on combat-related missions.”
American Legion members will sort through donated items to ensure that they are all approved. Items that do not pass will be donated to area food pantries. Local churches are invited to participate by encouraging their members to collect approved items.
Items can dropped off at the Red Cross office on Westwood Way from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Fridays, at Scotch Meadows Country Club from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. seven days a week. American Legion volunteers will collect items from churches and other groups around the county. Donations should not be left outside of business hours or at the American Legion post.
Monetary donations are also welcome, and will offset the cost of shipping care packages overseas. Any money left over will be used to send additional items.
“We’re showing our support for the servicemen and women who are deployed for freedom because freedom isn’t free,” said Stone. “We’re here as their backbone while they’re doing our country’s business for us. It’s our way of saying that we’re supporting them and we’ll do anything for them that we can.”