Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando's cheer brigade deployed to send packages to troops

SPRING HILL — Operation Sandy Branches is in full swing, and so dozens of boxes containing reminders of at-home Christmases will soon depart from Hernando County to 253 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For the second year in a row, the folks behind Treat the Troops, an effort that has so far flooded service personnel overseas with more than 60,000 homemade cookies, is sending holiday cheer boxes to the war zones.

Each box contains an 18-inch-tall Christmas tree, complete with handmade decorations. Dig deeper, and there's a stocking stuffed with candies and other treats. Also included are greeting cards and letters of thanks and support.

Donors have paid $14, which covers the tree, goodies and shipping, said Barbara Newlin, who, along with her husband, George, is coordinating the project.

Some 8,000 ornaments have been made, mostly by residents of the Silverthorn community, where the Newlins launched Treats for Troops three years ago. Many others were created by volunteers at the local hospitals' enrichment centers and students at Pine Grove Elementary School, all starting back in May.

On Saturday, an army of helpers gathered at Silverthorn to pack the boxes with hometown holiday cheer.

To stuff the stockings, Barbara Newlin hosted a birthday party for herself, asking for stocking items rather than gifts. She also urged Silverthorn residents to donate any leftover Halloween candy, and some kids deposited the contents of their trick-or-treat bags into donation boxes. The take was 125 pounds of candy.

Letters and handmade cards came from students at Chocachatti and Pine Grove elementaries, Hernando Christian Academy and the Timber Pines community. The Silverthorn Homeowners Social Club labored over customs forms for the boxes.

"We chose the recipients by contacting some of the military chaplains and commanding officers of units we've sent cookies to in the past, asking them for names of deployed service members they might know who are not getting packages from home or were unlikely to receive Christmas decorations from family members," Barbara Newlin said.

Homemade cookies, the foundation of Newlins' effort to Treat the Troops, began with a brunch. About a dozen neighbors were asked to bring 60 cookies each for forwarding to service members, and the response was overwhelming.

The endeavor soon outgrew the available space, and the couple opened a freezer for anytime donations. To date, they've collected and sent 60,000 cookies. "Our efforts to support the troops are year-round." Barbara Newlin said.

Beth Gray can be reached at

>>to learn more

Treat the Troops

To learn more about Treat the Troops or contribute much-needed postage, visit, mail tax-deductible contributions to 4260 Hunters Pass, Spring Hill, 34609, or call the Newlins at (352) 799-9750.

Hernando's cheer brigade deployed to send packages to troops 11/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 17, 2008 8:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manhattan Casino controversy resumes after taking a break for Irma

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration has once again found itself defending its controversial choice of the Callaloo Group to open a "Floribbean" restaurant in the historic but currently empty Manhattan Casino.

  2. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Carlton: The cross atop the church that moved, and other strange tales from Hurricane Irma


    Down in Miami, the famous tan-don't-burn Coppertone Girl on the side of a building lost her head — part of it, at least, the top of her blond hair lopped off in the fierce winds of Hurricane Irma. ("At least her tan line and doggie weathered the storm," the Miami Herald noted optimistically.)

    Hurricane Irma partly decapitated the Coppertone Girl in Miami. [Miami Herald]
  4. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]
  5. What you need to know for Wednesday, Sept. 20


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Mumford and Sons, pictured here performing in New York City, performs tonight at Amalie Arena, the group's first visit to the Tampa Bay area.  [Getty]