Operation Adopt a Soldier is having trouble raising postage for the “CARE packages” it sends overseas to U.S. troops.
“It costs us $14.55 to send a gift to a soldier,” said Cliff Seguin, founder of the small, Saratoga-based operation. “That’s almost twice what it cost 10 years ago.”
The organization started up in 2003 to support the troops fighting in the Middle East conflicts. At the time there were only seven soldiers on their list and it cost only about $8 to send a small box to Iraq.
Seguin said the number of soldiers and thus packages fluctuates based on deployment numbers but generally holds at roughly 500. A few hundred packages are sent out every few weeks all year, but that number climbs dramatically over the holiday season.
“I can’t imagine being away from my family in a desert at Christmas time,” he said. “When they open a package from us, it’s sort of like getting a piece of the holiday.”
Shoe-box sized packages are filled non-perishable food, hygiene products, reading material and general bits of home. “Everything but porn, pork and alcohol,” he said. The first and last are nixed for obvious reasons, and pork is offensive to Muslim customs.
The gifts are especially meaningful over the holidays, but the increased activity demands more postage money. Right now, that’s money OAAS doesn’t have.
Donations are down this year. Like many charities, OAAS felt the grip of the economy, but Seguin said it’s more than that.
“When people hear the president say, ‘The troops are coming home,’ they forget about our soldiers,” he said. “We still have 55,000 troops in Afghanistan and some in Iraq.”
Tuesday morning he received a letter from a captain whose 120 men are still stationed in Kuwait. The letter requested that all 120 be adopted, pushing the organization’s total to over 600 soldiers waiting for packages, even as the funds dry up.
“Right now we have about $20,000 in our accounts,” he said, “but that will be gone in two weeks.”
To get the funds, OAAS launched a few holiday fund-raisers last weekend. A basket raffle raised $860 that will go to adopt two families of stateside veterans. Local radio station Froggy 107.1 auctioned off a guitar autographed by a handful of country music legends, with the $620 high bid going to buy postage.
The events are over, but all donations made before Dec. 21 will be matched by Froggy and Nemer Ford up to $10,000.
To donate visit www.operationadoptasoldier.org.