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High Point residents' yellow ribbons help ease military overseas blues

From left, Carol Walker, Juanita Smith and Dolly Bridgeman work at the High Point community center Tuesday morning to fill care packages heading to military personnel overseas. The group, organized by Dee Whaley (not pictured), has started a program called “Pennies for Postage” to help pay postage for packages; those donating postage receive a yellow ribbon to tie to their mailbox to help show their support of the troops.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

From left, Carol Walker, Juanita Smith and Dolly Bridgeman work at the High Point community center Tuesday morning to fill care packages heading to military personnel overseas. The group, organized by Dee Whaley (not pictured), has started a program called “Pennies for Postage” to help pay postage for packages; those donating postage receive a yellow ribbon to tie to their mailbox to help show their support of the troops.

SPRING HILL — Like kids bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning or jumping from bed on Easter to see what goodies they got, American military personnel anxiously anticipate the surprises in every gift box they receive from folks back home.

But getting these goodies to the military is not free, or even cheap.

Since February 2008, a group of High Point residents have been have been sending 10 boxes weekly, for a total of 1,875 to date. Stuffed inside are socks, breakfast items, coffee bags, coffee creamer, greeting cards, baby wipes, sanitary napkins, reading materials and various treats, said Lucy Basta, who coordinated the project at the suggestion of neighbor Dee Whaley.

High Point residents have given freely of goods, but "postage is killing us," Basta said. Each week's mailing costs $109.50. While the High Point Social Club gives $150 a month for the mailings, it's not enough.

So, the box volunteers have branched into a new money-raising effort that also recognizes givers. They are offering yellow ribbons, for any donation, to tie around mailboxes, showing their military support.

Their first goal was to tie the community of several thousand mailboxes in ribbons. But others, beyond, learned of their effort and wanted to join in.

Stuart Symington Smith, president of Register Chevrolet Oldsmobile kicked in the first $50. The women bought the first bolts of ribbon from Sherwood Florist, which owner Tracy Mills supplied at cost.

Snipping the weatherproof ribbon into lengths and carrying them around the community with a collection jar, the women garnered $300. "That's how much his (Smith's) donation multiplied," said Basta.

Then, she added, Gus Guadagnino, owner of Joni Industries and a generous contributor to community causes, proffered $200, all of which will go to package postage. "We're going to tie a yellow ribbon on his door," Basta said.

An $8 bolt of ribbon yields about 36 pieces. The group bought an initial six bolts. "We've only scratched the surface," Basta said, with the campaign to continue through May and culminating in High Point's Memorial Day celebration.

Anyone people who would like to contribute to the effort — from pocket change to dollar bills — and receive a ribbon can contact Basta at (352) 597-1113.

Their donations will help the group continue to send small reminders of home to troops in far-flung locations. Uniquely special among the gifts in the boxes are small pillows sewn and stitched with inspirational messages, such as "Life by the yard is hard. Life by the inch is a cinch." The community's Share-A-Craft group creates the pillows.

A recent mailing to troops included candies left over from High Point's Easter egg hunt and celebration. A plush baby bunny was stuffed into a box. Basta related that a grateful letter from a box recipient said the Afghans used to avoid the U.S. troops but warmed considerably when the military gave out treats, especially to the children.

Dee Whaley, 78, who began the effort, said it springs from her heart. The wife of a former military serviceman and mother of two sons who served added, "If it's military, I'm a mush. I have a soft heart."

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

High Point residents' yellow ribbons help ease military overseas blues 05/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 10:11pm]
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