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Soldier sends thanks to letter writer

Trib Photo/Sue Tone<br>
To his surprise, Tim Smith, 13, received a package from John Lucero, aircraft electrician with the U.S. Navy, in response to a letter Tim wrote for Albertsons cookie sale this past year. Anyone can drop off letters for U.S. military personnel, which will be added to the cookie packages and mailed overseas on March 27.

Trib Photo/Sue Tone<br> To his surprise, Tim Smith, 13, received a package from John Lucero, aircraft electrician with the U.S. Navy, in response to a letter Tim wrote for Albertsons cookie sale this past year. Anyone can drop off letters for U.S. military personnel, which will be added to the cookie packages and mailed overseas on March 27.

Tim Smith contributed two letters to the Prescott Valley Albertsons Food Store this past year to thank U.S. military personnel serving overseas. He never expected the response that came back from a member of the U.S. Navy.

The seventh grader from Glassford Hill Middle School said he wrote the letters to say hi, thank you for serving, and he hoped the recipients were safe. The letters were not out of character for Tim. Two years ago, he struck up a pen pal exchange with a soldier who drove a truck in Iraq, but lost touch with the woman after she returned home.

U.S. Navy aircraft electrician John Lucero's thank you letter to Tim listed several places he had been recently: the Persian Gulf, Bangladesh, and near the Horn of Africa. Tim said he didn't need to look at a map to know where these places were.

"He loves maps," said Cathy Moody, Tim's mother.

The Navy electrician, stationed aboard the USS Kearsarge, said he had a 12-year-old nephew, and he included a copy of a CD for Tim that he put together for his nephew, a large Starbucks mug with "United Arab Emeritus" written on the side, a t-shirt, uniform patches, and a Challenger coin from the USS Kearsarge.

While his musical tastes run more towards Oldies than the hard rock on Lucero's CD, Tim said he appreciated the gifts. In fact, he plans to send Lucero a package in return, sharing some old soda bottles from his personal collection, an Arizona Highways magazine, and a photo of himself.

Tim's father, Chris Moody, is a former Albertsons' employee who worked closely with the store's cookie sale that has been sending fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies overseas for the past three years.

Mary Mallory, Albertsons' customer service supervisor, heads up the cookie challenge. She works with the Glendale-based Packages from Home to ship cookies from Prescott Valley to U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

On Thursday, March 27, beginning early in the morning, the store will bake, package and ship out thousands of cookies. Volunteers can help with the packing starting at 9 a.m., Mallory said. Besides cookies, volunteers also send letters, food, toiletries and recreational items to the troops.

"The cookies were obtained through a special ‘Buy One Get One Free’ promotion sponsored by Albertsons in February. During the weeklong sale, customers purchased two bags of cookies for the price of one bag and then donated the cost of the second bag to the troops. Albertsons’ staff kept a tally of the donations, purchased the ingredients for the cookies, and will bake the donated cookies early Thursday morning,” Mallory said.

The store has an official-looking mailbox for letters to military troops just inside the front door. Letter writers will need to drop off their cards and letters by Wednesday to be included with the cookies.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Mary Mallory at 928-533-8896. To learn more about Packages From Home, visit its website at www.packagesfromhome.org

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