ZEPHYRHILLS — It's no secret Ken Keith is a patriotic fellow.
Even though he's long retired from his Marine duties, Keith said he can still remember the warm feelings that came with a care package from home.
"It means everything to know that people are thinking about you," said Keith, 59, of Zephyrhills. "It just brightens your entire day and even weeks after."
That's why Keith donated to a Zephyrhills couple who are trying to help folks ship goodies to the troops. Marcus and M.J. Price, the owners of Goin' Postal, plan to open a Postage for Patriots Thrift Store and Donation Center next month in Zephyrhills.
It's a spinoff charity from their for-profit, Zephyrhills-based Goin' Postal shipping company they started a few years ago. For years, staffers at Goin' Postal saw the same faces coming in to ship off cookies, toothpaste and other items to their loved ones serving in the military.
"We really wanted to send their packages for free, but we weren't able to do that," said M.J. Price.
So the Prices decided to open a charity thrift store. They plan to sell donated items and put the proceeds (minus the rent) into a special bank account.
Whenever staffers at Goin' Postal spot a package addressed to a military post office box, they will use the thrift store profits to pay the postage tab.
That should take a little financial pressure off the parents, grandparents and spouses of people serving in the military. The Prices are not prepared to donate postage fees to groups and businesses that collectively send big boxes to troops because "We want to make sure we take care of the families first," Price said.
At some point in the future, they hope to help pay for large groups to ship items to troops.
The Prices own American Family Plaza at 5018 Gall Blvd., where the Postage for Patriots thrift store will open as early as the beginning of August. The rent for the storefront will be 15 percent of the thrift store sales per month, with a cap at $750 each month. The normal rent is $1,000 per month.
Donations are trickling in as word spreads about this grassroots project. There are donation boxes at a handful of places in town. But M.J. Price is looking for more spots to place a box. The more items they collect, the sooner they can open the doors of the Postage for Patriots thrift shop. They are in the process of applying for tax-exempt status to operate as a charitable organization, Price said.
There's a big box at Heads Up Salon in Zephyrhills that's set up to collect outgrown clothes, used toasters and such.
"Everybody's curious about the box," said Ken Keith's wife, Margie, who owns Heads Up and was one of the first to donate to the cause.
"We're always so anxious to help (the troops)," she said. "As an American, we're backing the troops all the way. That's our job."
Someone donated a couch last week. Another person gave a side-by-side refrigerator to the Prices.
Local Realtor Bill Nye donated two truckloads of furniture, books and household items.
The Prices are a "community-oriented couple" who are always giving back to the community of Zephyrhills, Margie Keith said.
"We salute (the soldiers)," said Price, "and we appreciate the sacrifice that the servicemen and women and their families are making on a daily basis."
Ebony Windom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.