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IDEA TO AID U.S. TROOPS: FILL HUMVEE WITH GOODS

Staffers at the Sheriff's Office and county jail will collect a mix of items this weekend.

Inspired by a community effort to gather needed items for schoolchildren, staffers at the county jail and the Sheriff's Office will be collecting goods for U.S. troops overseas this weekend.

After the United Way of Hernando County held a Stuff the Bus campaign for students recently, Barbara Ferrara, secretary to the jail's warden, asked a simple question: "Why not Fill the Humvee?''

Audrey Howe, a clerk with jail operators Corrections Corporation of America who also has a military family background, eagerly took on the project to help boost morale among the jail's 200 employees, the community and the service personnel.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office is providing the Humvee, courtesy of the agency's SWAT team.

The filling of the vehicle will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot at Wal-Mart on Cortez Boulevard next to Sam's Club.

Organizers are seeking donations of nonperishable food items such as dry soup mixes and cereals, tuna fish, snacks, flavored straws for bottled water, crackers, nutritional bars, coffee.

In the hygiene category, requests are for soap, antiseptic wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shaving cream and feminine products for women.

Also in demand are magazines and books.

One doesn't need to spend money to support the effort. "Letters of support" are big-time morale boosters, Ferrara noted.

Ferrara pointed out that hundreds of National Guard troops have deployed to the Mideast from their base at the Hernando County Airport, and so interest in contributing to the military should be substantial.

The agencies are hoping to get the goods to the troops in time for Thanksgiving.

"We're getting troop names from the local battery," Ferrara said, so the donations will reach Hernando neighbors.

As for covering the cost of postage, "we're still working on that," Ferrara said. The outlay will depend on the poundage of items donated.

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

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