By Kyle LoJacono
The deployment of 30,000 U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan has created a need for everyday items, so Southern Crafted Homes is sponsoring Military Appreciation Day to raise money to ship care packages.
“I wanted to help in any way our company could and get the word out about the need for postage money,” said Jim Deitch, chief operating officer of Southern Crafted Homes. “If we can use our influence to help the troops we will because there is only so much the government can provide without the public’s help.”
The business, which has had a location in Land O’ Lakes for 20 years, is hosting the event from noon to 4 p.m. March 28 at Stone Gate Community, 2830 Sunny Ledge Court in Land O’ Lakes. Admission to the event is free, but there will be things like food and memorabilia for sale to raise money for Support Our Troops Inc. in Wesley Chapel.
“It seems like the generosity of people in this country has no ends,” said Bob Williams, founder of Support Our Troops. “The only problem is we have so much stuff and not enough money to ship (it) to our soldiers. It costs $1 to ship one pound to the troops, so that adds up to a lot of money fast.”
Williams recalled receiving 40,000 pounds of snack food only to worry about how to come up with $40,000 to ship it to the soldiers.
“Everything we raise will go to pay for the postage that Support Our Troops needs,” Deitch said. “100 percent. We hope to raise $25,000 in one day and I think that is doable.”
Deitch knows from firsthand experience what it means to receive a care package while overseas. He was in the Marine Corps for 12 years from 1984 to 1996 and reached the rank of staff sergeant. He was stationed in the Middle East and Norway among other places.
“When I was deployed one of the most important things was to get mail from home,” Deitch said. “When guys got packages from home they always shared with everyone else. It’s important to know there are people that care when you’re putting your life on the line each day.”
One group that donates to Support Our Troops regularly is Treats for Troops, which is based in Land O’ Lakes.
“The shipping bill was around $60,000 last month,” said Treats for Troops founder Karin King about the cost to Support Our Troops. “Hopefully the event will bring a lot of people out.”
When the donated money for postage does not cover the costs, they have to dip into their own pockets.
“Basically we go for our credit card when we have to,” said Karin’s husband Jim King, who works with Williams as well. “The price each month is so high because of the new soldiers being deployed and also because all combat marines have been moved from Iraq to Afghanistan. Many had to move before they could pack all their supplies so they need a lot of things right now.”
One current soldier who has received supplies from Support Our Troops and Treats for Troops is Col. Mike Keller, who is stationed at one of the transportation centers the troops go through while being deployed to Afghanistan.
In a recent e-mail, Keller wrote after receiving the supplies:
“Three massive boxes of treats arrived today in pristine condition. My team immediately shared the wealth throughout the (headquarters)…Many thanks from all here.”
While the event is meant to honor all veterans and active military personal, there is one who will be honored in particular.
“We wanted to honor Mike Krackzkowski who recently passed away,” Deitch said. “He was the father of the wife of the president of Southern Crafted Homes (Kurt Hull). He served in World War II in Italy and the north African campaign.”
Krackzkowski, who lived in Connecticut, was born March 22, 1920 and died Feb. 5, 2010.
The day’s events will include military equipment demonstrations, a bounce house, face painting and animal balloons. Tampa Bay Lightning mascot Thunderbug will be in attendance and could be joined by the Lightning Girls and possibly one or two of the Lightning players.
Dinner at the event will be provided by Hungry Harry’s BBQ for $8. Raffle tickets for various gift packages will also be available.
Those who want to help with the cost of postage can send checks or money orders payable to the Postmaster to P.O. Box 7560 Wesley Chapel, FL 33545. For more information on Support Our Troops, e-mail of visit www.ourtroopsonline.com.
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