Christmas in July Party Benefits Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2007 - While the country is getting ready to celebrate its 231st birthday with fireworks, picnics and other summer activities, Arizonans Mike and Malinda Brown already are planning for Christmas.

On July 7, the Browns will host their annual "Christmas in July" party to benefit Packages from Home and its efforts to send care packages to deployed servicemembers.

"It's one of the only things that we feel that we can do, and it's something that's important to us, because we are wanting them to know that they're not forgotten," Malinda Brown said. "These are simple things that they should not be doing without, especially a clean pair of socks or a fresh pillow case."

Packages from Home is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

For the past four years, party guests -- the Browns' friends and clients -- have been asked to donate items to Packages from Home, Brown said. While the guests are enjoying an all-American meal of grilled burgers, hot dogs and the trimmings, Packages from Home volunteers are sorting donations of razors, shampoo, deodorant, socks and entertainment items.

"We have eight large banquet tables in our air-conditioned garage, and have this beautiful little grocery store set up for the evening," Brown said. Beginning about 9 p.m., groups of 20 to 25 guests pack boxes under the guidance of Packages from Home volunteers.

"The instructions they give us are, 'Go through the line as if you're packing for a loved one," Brown said, of the volunteers.

The annual party actually began nine years ago when Mike Brown's boss died unexpectedly and the family had requested no flowers be sent. Brown and Associates employees took that to mean no acknowledgement, Brown said. Her husband decided a party to celebrate his boss's life was in order.

During the course of each celebration, a toast is offered in his memory, she said. But simply hosting a large celebration each year didn't sit quite right with Brown.

"Since it was labeled as "Christmas in July" ... I (thought) we should be doing something good, and we took on several different charities," she said. "We needed to be doing something more than just drinking beer."

At one point, the Browns attempted to support a military unit serving overseas through their party, but never received any confirmation that the servicemembers had received the packages. But supporting the troops felt like the right thing to do, since several Brown and Associates employees have served in the military. So four years ago, the couple teamed up with Packages from Home.

"Last year we did over 220 (boxes)," Brown said. "We're shooting for 250 to 300 boxes this year."

But she has a broader goal this year. "I would like to share (this) with others, and invite them to have their own Christmas in July, and team up with someone like Packages from Home to keep the ball rolling," she said.

If that's not possible, simply making a donation, either cash or goods, to Packages from Home would be a great alternative, Brown said.

[Web Version:]