With the holidays coming up, it's a particularly difficult time to be away from friends and loved ones. It's especially true if you're serving in the military, and that's why Operation S.A.M. - "Supporting All Military" - is gearing up for a special mailing to U.S. troops around the world, with a particular focus on those in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The all-volunteer organization was founded in Livermore last December and has since sent out well over 2,000 packages, recently averaging over 400 packages per month.
"There are a lot of kids over there who don't get any mail at all from their families," explains Kristin Ekvall, whose son is a Marine currently serving in Iraq. "We send boxes to military chaplains and they hand them out to the kids who don't get any mail. That's what I enjoy the most, because it's those kids that need it the most."
The group's work has been well received. Military Chaplain Ted Baccich wrote from Iraq, "Your care packages are always received with joy, and I love the practical things you all put into those packages - things like socks, batteries, disposable cameras, trail mix, snacks, etc. Thanks again for all you do.
In addition to those items, Operation S.A.M. accepts donations of items like travel-size games, bandanas, wash cloths, word puzzle books, laundry detergent (tablets only), Tylenol, foot powder, quart and gallon-size freezer bags, sun block, eye drops, paper, pens, CDs, DVDs, and sewing kits.
For their upcoming holiday drive, to be held on Saturday, October 30, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Wal*Mart store in Hacienda at 4501 Rosewood Drive in the Metro 580 Center, Operation S.A.M. will be also be collecting holiday items such as non-breakable decorations and cards. The group will be at the Livermore Wal*Mart at the same time.
"For the Wal*Mart event, we'll have lists of suggested items that people can donate at our tables so that they can go into the store, buy something there, and then drop it off with us," says Ekvall.
Operation S.A.M., a registered non-profit organization, is also happy to receive cash donations to help offset expenses, such as the monthly postage costs which Ekvall estimates at over $1,000. Checks can be made out to "Operation S.A.M." and mailed to the group at P.O. Box 2992, Livermore, 94551.
The group also meets on the second Monday of each month at the Trinity Baptist Church, 557 Olivina Avenue in Livermore, at 7:00 p.m. Anyone who wishes to get involved is welcome to attend.
For more information, contact Kristin Ekvall at (925) 443-7841 or access the group's web site at operationsam.org .
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