Illinois Group Working Hard at Holidays

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 2006 - With its 4th annual "Holiday Hugs to Our Heroes" drive officially concluded, the SI Yellow Ribbon Campaign is unofficially still working to meet the group's goal of providing holiday packages to 1,000 troops.

SI Yellow Ribbon Campaign is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation's servicemembers.

"Our goal was to try and hit about 1,000 troops, but it doesn't look like we're going to make that," Amy Oxford, the group's founder, said. "It's just so important to me not to give up on this."

The campaign has benefited from several groups' drives to collect gifts for the care packages and has enough to ship to at least 1,000 troops, but postage is a concern.

Working with flat-rate boxes that ship for $8.10 each, the group has cut its postage costs nearly in half from last year.

"I've got a lot of Christmas items here, and we even had a bunch more come in yesterday," Oxford said. "My problem is it just doesn't look like we're going to have the postage to get it out."

On the bright side, she said she anticipates getting boxes of holiday cheer -- candy, comfort and entertainment items -- to a number of troops. Oxford said the group will comfortably be able to send boxes to about 500 servicemembers.

The group's campaign started in March 2003 by sending packages tailored to the servicemember receiving them. The database of those requesting packages hovers between 2,000 and 2,300 servicemembers serving overseas.

Oxford said she likes to include phone cards in the boxes all year, especially at Christmas. The cards, as well as CDs and DVDs -- Christmas package staples -- are in short supply and she said she'd love to have enough to include in every package she sends out.

"We're going to ship as long as we can, and if they're late, I still think it's the thought that counts," Oxford said.

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