Letters to the Editor 4/08/2003

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 7, 2003

Military calls halt on care packages

Dear Editor:

The Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross has received an overwhelming response from the public and those wishing to support U.S. service men and women by donating items to the Quality of Life Program.

However, the Department of Defense (DoD) has advised the American Red Cross of heightening security concerns and transportation restrictions, and has further cautioned the Red Cross against collecting a large amount of goods.

The DoD has suspended its own "Any Service Member" and "Operation Dear Abby" services due to security and logistical concerns.

In addition, because the public has been so generous with quality of life items, there are more than enough goods in the distribution pipeline to last an estimated four months. The American Red Cross is, therefore, immediately suspending the Quality of Life Program.

How You Can Show Your Appreciation

Because we are uncertain about the duration of Operation Iraqi Freedom, we cannot predict when the Quality of Life Program will resume.

Here are some suggestions outside of the Quality of Life Program:

A financial donation to help offset the costs of inspecting, packing and mailing the items we already have, and to help with the increase in Armed Forces Emergency Services communication requests from families of service personnel.

With nearly 300,000 forces in the region and climbing, the volume of Red Cross emergency communications has jumped 20 percent, greatly adding to our costs. The best way to help is to donate online at www.redcross.org where you can designate where and how you want your donation to help.

Give blood during the weeks ahead by calling (provide phone number to make appointment to give blood).

Become a volunteer as many military service members who normally perform this volunteer work are now deployed. Volunteers are needed to visit Veterans Administration hospitals and nursing homes, coach children's sports teams, feed the homeless or volunteer for other community outreach programs.

The DoD has established a website for updated referral information on sources for greeting cards, virtual thank you messages and calling card donations: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2003/b03222003_bt139-03.html.

We will continue to look for appropriate avenues to offer our community and encourage you to share your ideas with us. Thank you for all your efforts in supporting this program. For more information contact the Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross at 334-428-2680.

W.B. Stewart

Chapter Manager

Covington County Chapter of the American Red Cross