Napa, CA - Response to "Operation: Love from Home," a drive sponsored by Queen of the Valley Medical Center to collect donations of clothing, personal items, food, and letters of support for U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, has been overwhelming. With the generous support of the community, the medical center was able to collect, package and send 434 boxes of goods to military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan – more than three times the number of boxes sent last year – in time for Christmas.
Napans filled (and in some cases, refilled several times) 17 donation bins marked with a yellow ribbon and placed at businesses in Napa and at the medical center, with items that will help Christmas be a bit brighter, warmer, and more comfortable for the troops overseas. Donations deposited in the bins included snacks, thermals, socks, toiletries, and recreational items, such as CDs and playing cards, and many other items that are difficult to obtain in Iraq.
Community members, businesses and medical center employees also contributed almost $5,000 to help defray the postage costs for sending the care packages. A total of 46 volunteers gathered over two days to help pack and label all of the boxes for shipping on December 9. The packages are expected to reach military personnel in time for Christmas.
This is the second year that The Queen has conducted the drive. The idea occurred to employee Lisa Huntley, a radiology tech, last year. Huntley’s son Mitchell Ray, a Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps, was stationed in Iraq at the time and had commented to Huntley about how some of the other soldiers had not received any supplies or cards from home.
Last year, staff at Queen of the Valley only solicited donations and money from among employees, but this year, the invitation was extended to the entire community. The donation bins were placed at 12 businesses, with the help of Napa Valley Recycling, to provide convenient collection points within the city. Queen of the Valley Medical Center’s staff also sent requests to schools asking that children write letters of greeting to the soldiers. Students from four Napa schools, including Vichy, Northwood, Mt. George, and Stone Bridge, wrote over 500 letters and cards for distribution to the troops.
Liz Alessio, the Community Benefits Coordinator for Queen of the Valley Medical Center, and one of the key initiators of this project said: "Our great Napa community really came together this year to make this huge logistical task possible. This included businesses that allocated space for donation bins or donated funds; schools and teachers who encouraged students to write letters for the soldiers; the students who wrote letters and cards; local media, including the Napa Register, KVON and KSVY, who helped publicize the drive; volunteers who helped pick up and package the items; post office employees who came in early to process the packages; and hospital staff who volunteered their time or donated items or money. It was definitely a joint project, with many people, organizations and businesses contributing to its success."
"But most importantly, I think the drive brought community-wide awareness and attention to remembering those who are presently serving our country and who continue to need our good wishes and support."