By Jayne Hanson
It’s a self-proclaimed Labor of Love when it comes to monthly volunteer efforts that place niceties and necessities into the hands of deployed U.S. military men and women – but they want more.
“This started off being small, and now it’s grown,” said Judy Harvey, Auxiliary member of American Legion Post 81, in Lake Havasu City. “Before, we had to beg for donations and funds, and with so many different types of fundraisers. The car-and-bike show was very successful and that has brought in the money. So, we are looking for more names and addresses for deployed troops.”
The Troop Box Convoy Car and Bike Show is hosted by the local Legion’s Auxiliary each March. The third annual is set for March 28, 2020.
Its inaugural debut in 2018 boasted 186 cars and motorcycles registered. The second annual, in 2019, drew even more interest with 218 cars and motorcycles registered, according to local Legion Auxiliary member and volunteer car show organizer Vicki Hart, also of Havasu.
On Tuesday, Harvey and fellow Legion Auxiliary member Jan Swift were up early to prepare the 22 troop boxes and a set up an assembly-line system to help them pack, stack and track the troop care packages that are mailed each month from Havasu.
The packages are shipped to deployed U.S. military men and women serving in places including Africa, Afghanistan, Kuwait, South Korea, Japan, Germany, or on U.S. military ships such as air craft carries or hospital ships.
The effort began in 2005 with Harvey. Swift joined shortly thereafter. Since, the two volunteer hours each week to pull off their part. Pre-packaging toiletries, shopping for lacking or extra items, preparing U.S. Customs shipping forms online, and coordinating with the U.S. Post Office are among their tasks.
“I just love the idea of being able to support our troops,” Swift said. “It’s really rewarding when they come home and have their welcome-home thing and they tell us they appreciated the boxes. We know we’re doing a good thing.”
Through the years, the duo has worked to pack and ship as many as 60 troop boxes in one month. On average, it’s 35 troop boxes. Inside, they include letters of thanks and support from local school children, members of the community, or even themselves.
“I feel like it’s part of our mission, part of our service, our ministry, to try to take care of the people who are taking care of us,” Harvey said. “They need support. They’re alone. It’s not an easy thing. I think it’s our responsibility to step up and do our thing. It’s a labor of love, really.”
TROOP BOX RECIPIENT NAMES: The recipients can be from anywhere in the U.S., all deployed-status troops are welcome – be it someone’s spouse, sibling, grandchild, extended family, coworker, neighbor or friend. Please include the currently deployed troop’s name and address in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘troop box’ in the subject line, or contact Judy Harvey on her cell phone at 928-230-8988.
TROOP BOX ITEM DONATIONS
Currently, the program is beginning to collect for Christmastime troop care packages. Items such as DVDs, card games, playing cards, dominoes, dice, paperback books, board games, or items of that nature are sought.
Anyone interested in donating must please keep in mind that no aerosol products can be shipped.Only unused and unopened toiletries are accepted. And, chocolate doesn’t ship well in summer months.
Other items in high demand include socks (crew socks for warm climate, and thermal socks, hats and gloves for cooler climate), wet wipes, drink mixes, baby/foot powder, lip balm, eye drops, shampoos and conditioners, mouthwash, lotion, razors and sunscreen.
Snack items sought include packaged snacks like cookies or crackers, granola bars, beef jerky, sunflower seeds or nuts, dried fruit, pudding cups, chewing gum, pretzels, individually packaged condiments, etc.
Toiletries sought include shoe insole cushions, Q-tips, cotton balls, dental floss, feminine hygiene products, deodorant, bug repellent, ibuprofen, antacids, muscle cream and foot cream.
Entertainment items sought include batteries, crossword puzzles, word searches, frisbees, Nerf/foam balls, CDs, DVDs, board games, paperback books, harmonicas, and current magazines covering sports, cars, travel, or science, or periodicals such as “Arizona Highways”.
“We try to do the ones in harm’s way first, they have more needs,” Harvey said. “They don’t have access to stuff like this. Sometimes they’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
Donations can be dropped at the American Legion Post 81, at 181 Paseo Del Sol, in Havasu.