PUNXSUTAWNEY — More than 1,200 pounds of merchandise will be on the way to American troops serving in Afghanistan, thanks to the "amazing support" that area residents gave to the month-long drive sponsored by the Jefferson County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR).
Throughout October, citizens of all ages gathered and donated toiletries, snacks, canned meats, stationery, powdered drink mixes, playing cards, soups and noodles and other products requested by chaplains for distribution to the soldiers who are thousands of miles away from the items people back home take for granted.
Collection boxes were located at Comet Market and County Market in Punxsutawney; Mike's BiLo Market in Reynoldsville; the Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library in Brookville; and at the Depot Center in Brockway.
In addition, intermediate students at the Punxsutawney Area Schools and the Brookville Area Schools conducted their own campaigns to demonstrate their patriotism and gratitude to those in the Armed Forces.
Church groups from various points in the county, the residents of Mahoning Towers, and individuals and families also generously contributed to show their support for the troops.
Working with Charlotte S. Fye, project coordinator, PASR members sorted all the items and then transported everything to the Soldiers' Angels group at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Indiana.
A loaded pickup truck and four automobiles with fully packed trunks and back seats were needed in order to haul the more than half-ton of cargo to the processing center. There, Kim Kordell and a group of volunteers are already busy making Christmas bags and stockings which they will fill and ship to the recipients in time for the holidays.
Postage fees run about one dollar per pound.
In addition to all the "goodies," area residents sent $650 to help with shipping costs.
Kordell reported that she had just gone to check the Soldiers Angels box at her church before the PASR caravan arrived, and that there was another $590 to underwrite the costs.
Thus, all the materials collected in Jefferson County will be able to be shipped using available funds.
Explaining that the Soldiers Angels storage area had been empty for the past two weeks, Kordell and her colleagues said they were "overwhelmed with the amazing number of items" that PASR had been able to collect. "Jefferson County's response is astounding," Kordell said. "The truth is, without these donations, we would have a very dismal Christmas season this year for our troops. Our donations here have suffered from the tough economy."
She concluded, "I really don't know how to express my thanks to everyone in PASR. We are so very grateful for you all!"
Commenting on the successful project, Charlotte Fye said, "This is the third time we have sponsored Suppport the Troops, but this year's totals far surpassed the other two campaigns. We in PASR are so thankful for the business owners at the four collection points, the students in the two cooperating school districts, the church members from congregations throughout the county, and the hundreds of people whose kindness and generosity made it possible for us to send all these gifts to the men and women who are serving their country in Afghanistan."
In keeping with the recent focus upon Veterans' Day, Fye added that PASR members had also donated 51 fleece throws and 110 pairs of white socks to be distributed to patients at two veterans' hospitals in western Pennsylvania as part of the Support the Troops project.