West Virginia Group Boosts Troop Morale

By Toni Maltagliati
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2007 - From stocking hats to shower shoes, a West Virginia-based group is actively filling requests from U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, sending them about 50 boxfuls of care packages each week.

"'Boatsie's Boxes' began when my son, Patrick, a master sergeant in the United States Air Force, forwarded an urgent personal request from the deputy director of programs in Baghdad asking for our help," said Gail "Boatsie" Van Vranken, president and founder of Boatsie's Boxes Inc. "We will continue to support our troops in whatever way will bring them comfort."

Boatsie's Boxes is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Van Vranken and her family, along with volunteers in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, began gathering supplies to send to servicemembers in 2004.

"Our boxes are going to several hospitals, groups of young troops (deployed for the first time), and -- thanks to our very dedicated United States airmen, Marines, soldiers and sailors -- items are now reaching the forward lines of operation all over Iraq and Afghanistan," Van Vranken said.

Along with weekly care packages, Boatsie's Boxes conducts three seasonal projects each year. The first, a Valentine's Day campaign called "Hearts to Our Troops," is held to gather heart-shaped greetings and candy expressing support for military members.

The second seasonal push, "Operation Jelly Bean Express," is held in the spring and ensures troops get a taste of home wherever they are serving.

Summer brings "Beat the Heat," a drive for donations focused on products to help protect troops from the harsh sun and sand.

Boatsie's Boxes currently is conducting its annual "Operation Christmas Stocking." Through this project, the group will send 20,000 gift-filled stockings overseas this December.

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Boatsie's Boxes  [ ]
West Virginia Group Boosts Troop Morale [ ]