Local folks remember military at the holidays

PAT FRIDGEN
Volunteers from the Greencastle police department and Rescue Hose Company helped load an empty Food Lion trailer with Christmas donations for military personnel. A holiday drive was conducted by the South Washington County Military Support Group, which had drop off points in Greencastle. Assisting were, from left: Dustin Maynard, Jake Gsell, John Phillippy, Kyle Mellott and Josh Nicholson.

What started as a card drive in 2003 has grown to a holiday support project to also give members of the military food, personal items, paper products and Christmas wishes from thousands of people. Two businesses in Greencastle collected at least a quarter trailer load of supplies, which were put on an empty Food Lion truck Nov. 25 at WAYZ.

Group leader Lynn Johns, Keedysville, Md., said the South Washington County Military Support Group was thrilled with the response from the public. With solicitations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the organization collected 79,004 cards and 540 boxes for 90 military members. Each recipient in turn will split up the donations among his/her unit.

Phyllis Ames handled the contributions dropped off at ELM Garage, 846 Buchanan Trail W. "They are filling up my living room," she said.

With extended family in the Marines, she joined SWCMSG several years ago. "Every year this project grows. All of our service personnel need to know we stand behind them 100 percent. They are away from their families at Christmas."

A truck driver for Food Lion, Johns' company was actively involved, promoting the sale of Little Debbie snack cakes, and many customers responded.

Johns picked up donations throughout the four-state territory during the course of the card drive. "My house looks like a warehouse. People were very generous. They blessed us with a good deal. We're lucky to live in an area that's so patriotic."

The items were sorted and packed into boxes over the weekend, and mailed out Monday. The Keedysville post office had extra staff on hand to help out.

Johns said her group received names from the public and the boxes went to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea.

A core base of 12 families work on fundraising efforts throughout the year.