Advertisement
  1. Military

Price of postage pinches group sending goodies to troops overseas

Mark Van Trees, 60, runs Support the Troops, a group that sends items such as toiletries and snacks around the globe.
Published Jun. 18, 2016

More than just about anyone else outside the gates of MacDill Air Force Base, Mark Van Trees is paying close attention to news about where U.S. troops are headed.

With the Pentagon and White House talking about increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan next year, and incremental upticks already under way in Iraq and Syria, Van Trees is worried.

That's because Van Trees, 60, runs Support the Troops, a Wesley Chapel-based organization that sends items such as toiletries and snacks to troops around the globe. While there is no shortage of goodies being donated, the organization is running out of money to mail the stuff, he said.

That's because the price of postage keeps going up.

Each month, the organization — based at the warehouse of Sifter Inc., a company that makes equipment and filter bags for the baking industry — sends out about 115 packages. At $54 per 40-pound package, the organization is spending $6,210 each month just on postage.

"What we need most is money," said Van Trees, a former business owner well-known in military and veteran circles for charitable and service efforts. "The post office has raised rates every year for the past four years, and we don't get a break or a subsidy, even though we are sending things to the troops."

The need remains great, said Van Trees, and was exacerbated by drawdowns in both Iraq and Afghanistan that meant even the most basic morale-inducing items, such as coffee pots and microwaves, are often no longer available because they've been shipped home.

Van Trees said his organization is shipping packages to the 10th Mountain Division in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, to more than 30 Green Beret units, and to many other units all over.

A recent deployment of A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthogs" meant that a search and rescue squadron needed to ship forward. And so now Support the Troops is shipping 1,200 pounds a week of goods to those units, Van Trees said.

The five most requested items are coffee, razors, toothpaste, white tube socks and beef jerky, said Van Trees.

Beef jerky?

"It's pure protein," he said. "The troops just grab a handful, throw it in to the rucksack and they have something to keep them going."

Cookies, energy drinks, snacks, peanuts and sunflower seeds are also popular, said Van Trees.

Support the Troops has been in operation for 15 years. It was started by Bob Williams, who owns Sifter Inc. Van Trees took over four years ago after Williams suffered a serious brain injury when a pole fell on him at the warehouse.

For more information, or to make a donation, contact Van Trees at mark@ourtroopsonline.com or via snail mail at P.O. Box 7587, Wesley Chapel, FL 33545.

• • •

On Wednesday, there will be a happy hour fundraiser at the Aloft for the Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay.

Put on by the Professional Philanthropist Network, the event will benefit an organization that highlights the artistic talents of veterans.

The Veterans Art Center Tampa Bay is dedicated to providing opportunities for military and veterans to develop and showcase creative and artistic accomplishments. As veterans and their families transition to civilian life, the Veterans Art Center is supporting their need for creative as well as economic outlets.

The fundraiser is from 6 to 9 p.m. at Aloft Tampa Downtown hotel, 100 W Kennedy Blvd. More information is on Facebook, search VACTB.

• • •

The Pentagon announced no new deaths last week in its ongoing overseas operations.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 21 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the followup, Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, and 16 troop deaths and one civilian death in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabaytimes.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. By the time Gunnery Sgt. John Guglielmino died Thursday at age 69, more than 200 service men and women had made the trip to Curahealth Jacksonville to salute him one last time. Facebook
    Katie Boccanelli was hoping maybe a handful of local servicemen/women might be in a position to respond.
  2. Honor guard soldiers salute as the urn containing the ashes of Maj. Albert L. Mitchell, U.S. Army (Retired) is seen during a ceremony Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The ashes were found in a St. Petersburg attic. Nine years after his death, a soldier is buried with honors at Bay Pines National Cemetery.
  3. Patriot Guard Riders Floyd Anderson (right of center), from Riverview, and (right) Henry Hyde, from Fort Myers, embrace after the funeral for Edward K. Pearson on October 1 at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota.  Mr. Pearson was not believed to have left any family behind, so the public was invited to attend. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Edward Pearson Sr. had two sons. Their father walked out on them when they were teens. Years later, they were told he was dead.
  4. (left to right) Trevor Yarborough, 17, Kadie Weston, 17, and Connor Gadson-Yarbrough, 18, supervise their NJROTC classmates while preparing for the Iron Bear Challenge at Robinson High School in Tampa. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Many of America’s future soldiers are too young to have a personal connection to the terror attacks or the war in Afghanistan that followed.
  5. Edward K. Pearson's remains are carried in for his funeral on October 1, 2019 at the Sarasota National Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida.  Mr. Pearson did not leave any family behind, so the public was invited to attend. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    An estimated 1,500 people showed up at the ceremony held for Edward K. Pearson.
  6. The KC-135s are the main aircraft for the 6th Air Mobility Wing soon to be redesignated as the 6th Air Refueling Wing. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 6th Air Mobility Wing celebrates its 100th anniversary while getting a redesignation
  7. A F/A-18A Hornet, assigned to the U.S. Navy flight demonstration team the “Blue Angels,” makes a pass past the crowd at the 2004 Joint Service Open House. Courtesy of Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain
    MacDill Air Force Base will host Navy aircraft for three weeks beginning Oct. 1
  8. Army veteran Edward K. Pearson died in Naples with no living relatives. A social media campaign that swept the country is expected to bring crowds to his interment at a Sarasota military cemetery. Photo from Patricia Thrasher's Facebook
    The national political community is rallying around the story of Edward K. Pearson.
  9. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Macguire was heading up a charity helping wounded warriors when he was tapped last year to join the intelligence community in Washington. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    The retired vice admiral and Navy SEAL helped raise millions for wounded warriors as leader of a Tampa-based foundation.
  10. A homeless Vietnam War veteran in Clearwater answers questions for a Pinellas County homeless survey. A shortage of affordable housing is considered a major cause of homelessness among vets in the Tampa Bay area. [Times files]
    Local agency leaders called on members of Congress to increase national affordable housing options as a solution to veteran homelessness
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement