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Donate care packages for the troops Wednesday at the Wine Mall

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — It can cost as much as $45 to send a pack of socks or shaving cream to Iraq, so it's no wonder that troops often go without.

That's where Bob Williams comes in. He runs Support the Troops, an organization that ships care packages to armed forces overseas.

Williams, a Vietnam War Navy veteran, spends about $35,000 a year in postage to ship more than 250 care packages to troops deployed in combat zones across the globe, he said.

"I get e-mails from guys that hit the ground in Afghanistan that get a skid of water, a skid of MREs," said Williams, referring to the pallets used for transporting supplies.

"If they didn't carry it in with them, they don't have it," he said.

For the past 28 years, Williams has made it his mission to get the goods to the troops.

The Wesley Chapel resident relies on donations to send packages and has even had to dig in his own pocket a time or two.

Williams said he was doing the shipping on his own until about a year ago when he created the nonprofit group Support the Troops.

On Wednesday he'll be teaming up with Wine Mall, a local wine bar and retail store, to collect care package items. The wine bar will be offering a free wine tasting and live music while people drop off donations.

"We're very aware of the hardships put on these ladies and guys that are deployed overseas," said Wine Mall store manager Jenn O'Cuinneagain, who was deployed to Bosnia in 1996 during her time in the Army.

Williams' ultimate goal is for laws to be changed to allow free shipping to troops. There's been some traction on that front.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, joined with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, to introduce H.R. 707, the Home Front to Heroes Postal Benefits Act, which would provide free monthly coupons for charities and military families sending packages to troops.

The bill was referred to the House Armed Services Committee.

Fast facts

Want to donate items?

The Wine Mall troop care package drive begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, 11246 W Hillsborough Ave. Acceptable items include: toiletries like soap, shaving cream and deodorant; insect repellent, hand warmers, games, DVDs, CDs and writing paper. Call: (813) 855-7711.

Donate to Support the Troops?

Send donations to P.O. Box 7560, Wesley Chapel, Fla. 33545. Checks should be made out to Support the Troops or the postmaster. Or go to www.ourtroopsonline.com to make a donation.

Donate care packages for the troops Wednesday at the Wine Mall 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 11:09pm]
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