Operation Santa working to give troops a merry Christmas

Published 9:56 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pick N Save and Fuzzy Duck collection donations


It’s barely November but local businesses have already been hard at work helping with the Operation Santa cause.

For the past seven years, the Tri-State chapter of the Marine Corps Family Support Community, headed by Mary Jo Vermilyea, has worked to extend its yearlong project of supporting military troops out into the community for Operation Santa.

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The group collects items for care packages to be sent to soldiers overseas in hopes that they will get supplies that are not readily available to them and that they would have a more cheerful holiday season.

“We really need items to keep (the troops) warm,” Vermilyea said.

Vermilyea said fleece blankets, beanies and hand and foot warmers are greatly needed. She also said the troops look forward to different kinds of food.

“They all want some type of food,” she said. “The MRE’s have no flavor.”

Some of the food items accepted are packaged cookies, individual snack foods like chips or crackers, nuts, trail mixes, holiday candies, beef sticks, pepperoni, and tuna pouches.

To help with the effort, both Pick N Save at the Ironton Hills Shopping Center and the Fuzzy Duck are collecting items and donations.

Vermilyea said despite economic hardships, people have continued to donate.

“This year especially, we have been overwhelmed by community support,” she said.

At Pick N Save, Chesapeake High School students Alyssa Freeman and Taylor Price have volunteered to collect the items donated and package them for shipping.

Not only is Pick N Save a drop-off site for supplies, but the store is also selling yellow ribbons for $1 to help cover shipping costs. Last year, 326 packages were sent overseas at a cost of about $2,200.

Pick N Save will collect items and donations until Saturday.

On Saturday, the Fuzzy Duck will have an Operation Santa concert benefit to raise money to buy supplies for the troops.

From 4 p.m. until closing, the bar will host eight bands and collect monetary donations to and will also be a drop-off spot for items.

Manage Karen Markle said they hope to raise at least $2,500 to buy supplies.

“We want as many people as we can to support us so we can make it a really good Christmas for them,” Markle said.

Vermilyea said she hopes to up the number of packages sent this year to 500.

“We would like the community to know if they have someone deployed, to please let us know.”

Operation Santa is for all branches of the military. More of the items needed for the care packages are thick, black socks, moist wipes, travel-sized toiletries, individual powdered drink mixes, 72” boot laces and letter and Christmas cards of support.

The Tri-State chapter of the Marine Corps Family Support Community will have a meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ironton Giovanni’s. Vermilyea said anyone is welcome to join the group.

To let Vermilyea know of any troops that need support, she can be reached at (740) 532-5741.