Operation Santa sends cheer to military

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 20, 2011


RUSSELL, Ky. — Lee Anne Mullens may not look like one of Santa’s elves, but she played the part of one Saturday.

Mullens, who is Ironton High School’s Key Club advisor, lined up with a half a dozen of her students and a few dozen other volunteers and helped assemble care packages that will be sent to American service men and women stationed overseas as part of Operation Santa, organized each year by the Tri-State chapter of the Marine Corps Family Support Community.

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Local businesses and private citizens donated toiletries, snacks, clothing and reading material to the effort.

Then volunteers lined up at the Ashland, Inc., warehouse in Russell, Ky., Saturday to pack the goodies into boxes. Mary Jo Vermilyea, whose son is a U.S. Marine, heads up the group.

She said the 250 boxes assembled will go to troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Japan.

“I think things are going very well,” Vermilyea said as she surveyed the volunteers at work. “This is the biggest (turnout) we’ve ever had.”

Mullens said she decided to take part because she knows Vermilyea and her son, Jimmy.

“I decided this was a good Christmas project for the club,” Mullens explained. “I think its important to do something for the military.”

Susan Melvin was one of the volunteers. Her son, Aaron Hasenauer, is in the U.S. Air Force; her husband, Dave Melvin, is in the National Guard and a nephew, Seth Saunders, is in the reserves. She said its important to let those who are far away from home this Christmas know they are missed.

“Whether I know them or not,” she said, “I’m proud of what they do.”