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November 28, 2007 > Operation: MOM and you

Operation: MOM and you

By Shari Wargo
Photos By by Shari Wargo

Fremont resident Beverley Grenz' son Jeff, a CW2 Maintenance Officer for a repair team serving in the Iraq FIRES Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, emailed her in October saying that long work hours and military life so far from friends and family is very hard for many young guys in his group. He told her that he was going to dress up as Santa to increase morale, but needed suggestions and support from others. So Grenz went to work making signs and posting them at work, her hair dresser and churches asking for donations and cards. She received donations of vitamins, cards, games, toiletries, DVDs, socks, and paper for the troops.

Grenz made three dozen or so homemade butter cookies with homemade frosting in Christmas shapes and wrote the name of each soldier in her son's group on their own Christmas stocking. Fremont resident Margie Saenz helped Grenz stuff 19 Christmas stockings with donations. These two packed 19 individual boxes with stockings, cookie boxes, and bags of letter paper, envelopes, and pens for this lucky Army repair team.

Grenz and Saenz aren't the only family and friends packing gifts and supplies to support US troops this holiday season. On Sunday, Nov. 18, Operation: MOM held a holiday packaging gathering for over 600 soldiers.

Operation: MOM is a support group for the whole family, not just moms. They serve friends, siblings, fathers, children, and all branches of military personnel. Located throughout the country, Operation: MOM headquarters is in Castro Valley, currently the only group serving the Bay Area.

Operation: MOM brought all of their donations to the Teamsters Hall in Hayward, which had been donated for their use to pack holiday boxes for military personnel overseas. When they arrived, They were pleasantly surprised to find high school students, residents, church groups, the 4-H Club, FW Post 9601 Castro Valley, and volunteers from the Moose Lodge show up to help as well.

"We were totally blown away by how many people showed. There were over 150 people who helped," said Debbi Dresser, project coordinator for Operation: MOM.

Within three hours, volunteers completed 650 boxes at Sunday's holiday pack for the troops. "There were DVDs, CDs, blankets, wash clothes, disposable cameras, socks, ornaments, and candy in the packages. We have flat rate boxes so we really pack them" said Dresser. She added that they are still getting more names of soldiers who need packages and letters, and now have over 1,000 total names (including the 650 already completed) waiting for holiday boxes.

The names of soldiers overseas are turned in to Operation: MOM, some by families in the Bay Area, but from all over the country as well. To support all of our troops who need the reminder that they are not forgotten. Operation: MOM sends every soldier whose name is submitted, a package and letters.

The next big group pack event will be in March, but in the meantime, there are still plenty of ways to show your support. The Elks Lodge in Fremont and Pete's Hardware in Castro Valley are still accepting donations for Operation: MOM. Dresser said Operation: MOM needs donations of dried snacks, microwavable ravioli, tuna packets, and socks. Other donations, excluding glass or liquids and pork products, are also welcome.

Dresser added that she began to connect with women and organizations around the country to design and create homemade cards for the troops through Operation: MOM. "We started this with Mother's Day cards... it has really taken off," Dresser told TCV. One mother, whose son was overseas, told Dresser that the handmade Mother's Day card was the only piece of mail she had received from her son, and it meant so much to her. Soldiers have also returned a positive response by emailing Dresser to ask for more cards, and as they leave, giving Dresser's email address to their replacements. "We collect handmade and store bought cards to send to the troops because they don't have Hallmark in Iraq. [These cards] mean a lot to the soldiers and their families" She said.

Handmade cards for all occasions and seasons are still needed from the Bay area. To donate a handmade or store bought card for Operation: MOM, email Dresser at pfcrensmom-cardsfortroops@yahoo.com.

Coupons can also help soldiers, even if they are expired. Overseas military can use coupons, even those that have expired.

For more information about Operation: MOM, where to send handmade or store bought cards, donation locations and what donations are needed, or where to send coupons visit www.operationmom.org.

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