Group Shows Gratitude with 'Patriotic Drive'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2007 - As Memorial Day nears, so does the start of Operation Gratitude's fourth "Patriotic Drive" to send care packages to troops serving overseas.

The California-based troop support group has been collecting and sorting items for the drive since March, Carolyn Blashek, the group's founder said.

Volunteers will begin assembling the packages during the Memorial Day weekend and continue to do so for three additional weekends, concluding the project on June 30 and July 1.

"We want to continue our mission to lift morale, put smiles on servicemembers' faces and provide the American people an avenue to express their appreciation and respect to the men and women who defend our freedom," Blashek said. "The Patriotic Drive, which runs from ... Military Appreciation Month through our nation's Independence Day is the perfect time for us to do this."

The group has shipped more than 210,000 packages since its founding about four years ago. Blashek said she expects the group will send another 50,000-60,000 packages during this drive.

"We will be sending our quarter-millionth care package on June 16," she said. "The contents of that package are a surprise and will be revealed ... on that day."

In addition, each package sent as part of this year's Patriotic Drive will contain a special item, which will be revealed on the first packing day, Blashek said.

The packages always contain letters to the troops as well as food, personal and comfort items. Blashek said Operation Gratitude is accepting donations of items from its "wish list," which can be viewed on its Web site, and will continue to do so through June 15.

"We welcome all items on our wish list and especially would like DVDs, CDs, Beanie Babies, 'Bandana Cool-ties' or mini fans, small packages of beef jerky, and personal letters of appreciation," she said.

Operation Gratitude is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families.

In addition to gearing up for the Patriotic Drive, Operation Gratitude will hold its "Benefit for Our Bravest" fund raiser May 19, which is also Armed Forces Day, Blashek said. The street festival will take place in Sherman Oaks, Calif. and feature entertainment, live and silent auctions, and kids' activities.

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