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Tue, Oct. 15

Goodies-4-Grunts sends care packages to deployed troops in remote locations

Courtesy photo<br>
U.S. Army Sgt. Major Sam Schmidt sorts through 800 pounds of care packages from Goodies-4-Grunts that he and his men distributed to forward-deployed troops last year.

Courtesy photo<br> U.S. Army Sgt. Major Sam Schmidt sorts through 800 pounds of care packages from Goodies-4-Grunts that he and his men distributed to forward-deployed troops last year.

Anyone who has been deployed in the military knows there's nothing lonelier than mail call when you leave empty handed, said Murrell Worth, director of Goodies-4-Grunts, a Chino Valley-based group that sends care packages to deployed troops.

"Everyone has a letter and they're walking away to find a private space to read it, and you leave with no mail and your hands in your pockets," said Worth, who served in the Army in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Asia.

For the past six years, Goodies-4-Grunts, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), has aimed to change that by donating one-gallon ziplock bags filled with toiletries, food, and entertainment items throughout the year to some of the most forward-deployed combat troops in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard stationed in harm's way in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines.

Letters from servicemen and women indicate that they are making a difference.

"Our living conditions are like that of camping but without the benefit of going to a nearby market," wrote U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher Gonzales. "The items you provided us are going to go a long way. The small comforts of home mean the world to us, and knowing you are out there means even more."

Right now, the group is working with the Army and Air Force ROTC at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to collect items and donations to send the Christmas care packages overseas, since the cutoff date to mail items in time to get there is Oct. 24, Worth said.

"Four years ago, I decided I wanted to do something special for the troops for Christmas," Worth said. "Some men and women don't get much at all."

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Erin E. Aretz thanked the group for the care packages sent to her platoon.

"I cannot tell you how much that meant to me and my soldiers," Aretz wrote. "It was like Christmas here. We had just opened up our last bag of coffee that morning when the care packages arrived that afternoon. Your kindness and support keeps us going. The coffee helps too!"

Worth said the drive has become a community event and everyone is asked to fill a 1-gallon bag with items like soap, gel shaving cream, baby wipes, work gloves, emery boards, shampoo and conditioner, socks, sunscreen, beef jerky, hot sauce, coffee, cocoa, individually packaged drink mixes, ramen, DVDs, CDs, magazines, board games, and puzzles. Then drop off the bag at either the American Legion Post 40 in Chino Valley or Birdies Barber Shop in Chino Valley.

A complete list of suggested items can be found on the group's website, www.goodies-4-grunts.org.

"You hit the nail on the head with the items you sent," wrote U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Michael D. Dunn. "The drink mix packs are a lifesaver. One can only drink so much plain water, so thanks for that. The peanuts will make great snack food for my section."

The bags are boxed and shipped to a person who has agreed to distribute them to the men and women in their command, Worth said.

"Last year, we ended up with about 1,200 pounds," Worth said. "It's a lot when you carry it to the post office."

Worth also suggested putting in school supplies, small cloth toys and items for children that soldiers meet.

"We are going to make a trip to the Egyptian hospital this weekend. We will be giving out the stuffed animals, clothing and toys to those who need it the most," wrote U.S. Army Sgt. Deborah P. Galan in Afghanistan.

Worth said he also asks people to include their name, address, and email in the bags so the troops can write back. The troops have sent back pictures, letters, postcards and flags to some donors, Worth said.

People who prefer to help pay for postage can mail a check to Goodies-4-Grunts at 388 Butterfield Road #42 in Chino Valley, AZ 86323, or donate by PayPal on the website www.goodies-4-grunts.org, Worth said. Mailing costs are $70 for a 65-pound box. Worth asks people to include a business card with their donation so recipients know who got their presents to them.

However, he added, "It isn't about getting attention; it's about getting those boxes full and to the troops."

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