A group of Napa volunteers has sought to bolster the holiday spirits of U.S. soldiers through shipments of care packages abroad. But in its sixth Christmas season, Operation: With Love from Home is reporting donations well below its target — and is giving would-be donors more time to help make up the difference.
The nonprofit group, which is sponsored by Queen of the Valley Medical Center, said Wednesday that contributions at its 31 donation sites around the city are at only 30 percent of the level needed for the 1,000 gift boxes it plans to ship in December.
In response, Operation: With Love from Home is extending the deadline for donations, originally Friday, an extra week to Dec. 5. Along with items to fill the care packages, Operation: With Love from Home is seeking contributions to cover the $12.95 postage for each box, according to Elizabeth Alessio, the program’s coordinator.
The shrinking U.S. military presence in the Middle East — especially after the withdrawal of most troops from Iraq — may be causing remaining service members in war zones to slip from civilian attention, according to Alessio.
About 65,000 Americans remain on active duty in Afghanistan and 20,000 more in other nations, she said.
“With all the things going on in everybody’s lives, they just believe that everybody’s coming home, and that’s not the case,” she said. “Unfortunately, we still have to create public awareness. It’s easy to forget about what goes on overseas, and the sacrifices being made on our behalf.”
Volunteers also coped with a dearth of early donations in 2011, when the group had gathered only enough donations for 300 packages by the start of December. But organizers said a late rush of giving eventually filled about 1,000 boxes of gifts for overseas service personnel.
Care packages assembled by the Napa group contain a variety of items, including snacks, condiments, dental and hygiene products, bath goods and other products. But along with the necessities are cards and notes prepared by Napa-area students, which the group collects and includes in the packages as morale boosters.
“The gem in the box are the cards the school kids make; they really provide inspiration,” said Alessio, whose son is stationed in Djibouti with the Marine Corps. “Many of the letters we receive back (from troops), they always mention the letter and how much it means, how they post it in their tent for positive reinforcement.”
Packing of the care boxes is scheduled for Dec. 8 at Crosswalk Community Church, and Operation: With Love from Home is seeking volunteers for the event.