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Have goods for troops, need postage

WESLEY CHAPEL

Bob Williams has boxes loaded with air-activated hand warmers for troops hunkered down in the caves of Afghanistan. He has a crateful of Beavis and Butthead Do Christmas DVDs to entertain soldiers stationed in Iraq.

But, like the last 27 years he's played year-round Santa to the military, Williams needs postage.

"We get a tremendous amount of product," said Williams, 61. "But 22,000 pounds of brownies is $22,000 I need in postage."

Williams runs Support Our Troops, an organization that ships everything from chocolate to Crock-Pots to troops stationed overseas.

It's been his mission for three decades. A former Navy man, Williams wanted to make sure today's troops were treated better than he was during his time in Vietnam.

"When we came back you were spit on and called 'baby killer,' " Williams said. "It's something that I don't want to see happen again. I want to make sure these boys and girls know we appreciate what they're doing."

Williams wakes before dawn to sift through e-mail requests: monopoly games, coffee, flannel pajamas, school supplies for students in new Iraqi schools.

"I just got an e-mail that we have 500 soldiers in Afghanistan living in a cave that don't have thermal underwear," Williams said. "I sent them socks, air-activated hand warmers, hot chocolate and coffee."

Donations are easy to come by. People stop by often with toiletries.

He gets many supplies directly from retailers. Some are foods past their expiration dates, but still good to eat. Other times he massages the corporate egos for goodies.

"You don't drink Starbucks for 18 months and then want a steaming cup of Maxwell House," he tells the head honchos.

Williams also pulls out his own wallet for supplies and postage, which runs $8,000 monthly during the year, and $35,000 through the holidays.

"If I can get help with postage, I am tickled," he said.

The operation is run out of the offices of his former businesses, American Fabric Filter Co. and Sifter Parts & Service, Inc.

Williams retired five years ago and passed on the businesses to his sons.

Most wouldn't consider 15 hours a day packing boxes bound for Iraq a true retirement, but Williams doesn't plan to end his efforts anytime soon.

"Not until they come home," he said. "For good."

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Fast facts

Want to help?

For more information, visit www.ourtroopsonline.com. To help Williams with postage, send a check to Support Our Troops, P.O. Box 7560, Wesley Chapel, FL 33545. Make checks payable to "Postmaster."

Have goods for troops, need postage 12/03/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 8:17pm]
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