Saturday, August 06, 2005

It's getting HOT in here 

Another worthwhile group you can help to help our troops:
According to many servicemembers stationed overseas, it's a great feeling to receive a care package, and it's especially nice when the package contains items that you personally requested.

In March, Kristen Maddox, a 21-year-old college student from Santa Ana, Calif., launched the nonprofit organization "Helping Our Troops" with that in mind. Her goal is to ship care packages that contain items based solely on troop requests.

"We don't send our favorite items; we send their favorite items," Maddox said.

HOT is made up of a small group of volunteers, mainly Maddox's friends and family, who have doggedly searched for a wide variety of items, including canned sardines, eye goggles and pool cues.

As soon as HOT receives a request from a servicemember, normally via e-mail, the volunteers immediately set out to fill the order, Maddox said. "Once we receive a request, we go shopping. In cases where the items are difficult to find, we continue shopping until we find them," she said.
It's been a labor of love for Maddox:
Maddox's idea took hold when she turned 21 on Jan. 9.

Her parents gave her $250 so she could buy herself a gift, but she set the money aside for her business. She canceled plans to party with girlfriends.

That same day, a high school friend, Lance Cpl. John Richardson, 22, left for Iraq on his third deployment.

"I thought, 'I'm here (in America). I can go out and party and see my friends and family every day, but men and women my age are over there, and what am I doing?'" Maddox said. "It made me realize that I can do more for them, so why not?"...

To get her nonprofit organization off the ground, Maddox dipped into savings for a condo she planned to buy.

So far, she has spent about $5,000 hiring a lawyer to form the nonprofit, starting a Web site and printing 200 "I'm Hot" tank tops and T-shirts for people who donate $25 or more. The $5,000 also has gone toward buying things like beef jerky, anti-fungal foot cream and DVDs.
The photo of Kristen, above, is not gratuitous, but illustrative of this story:
Many troops, when they first hear about her service, think it is a hoax.

They also assume that an older woman is behind the packages. They are surprised, she said, to discover it is someone her age.

Some are smitten.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Grove, a 23-year-old Marine, has struck up a close friendship with Maddox, sending photos and regular e-mails. He sent her a live rose bush. The two plan to meet this summer.
If you want to help: visit www.helpingourtroops.com, or mail a check to Helping Our Troops Inc., P.O. Box 10298, Santa Ana, CA 92711-0298. E-mail: info@helpingourtroops.com.

Update: And here is a list of links to dozens and dozens of other groups and initiatives supporting the troops.


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