Two Truckloads of Goods Collected for Military Personnel

Kailyn, 6, and Bill Culbertson write Christmas cards to soldiers

More than 100 volunteers spent Friday stuffing stockings,
packing bags
Gilroy – Two Wal-Mart tractor-trailer rigs rumbled into Gilroy Sunday morning, but their destination was not the Wal-Mart Superstore. The two rigs were coming from a convenience store convention is Las Vegas to the warehouse of Mike Nelson’s Full Spectrum Machining on Camino Arroyo Drive with 48 pallets of donated goods for the Gilroy-Morgan Hill chapter of Operation Interdependence, an organization that specializes in packing “C-rats,” civilian rations, for men and women serving in the armed forces.

From there, local volunteers Julie Dawes, Karen Humber, Susan Hamilton, Louise Vogel, and volunteer forklift driver Dennis Berry of Associated Plumbing, spent 12 hours unloading the pallets that contained bottled water, tea bags, fruit drinks, paper towels, toothpaste, liquid soap, baby wipes, and various snacks.

Al Renteria, a retired Marine and founder of Operation Interdependence, received the offer of all vendor goods left over at the end of the National Association of Convenience Stores convention in Las Vegas. It was determined that about seven truckloads of goods would be donated, and then the problem became transportation to the various chapters of Operation Interdependence, including two truckloads bound for Gilroy.

An OI volunteer then contacted Ken Higgins, manager of the local Wal-Mart Supercenter, and asked for assistance with the goods coming here, and explained the circumstances. Six hours later, the answer was “yes” for not only for the Gilroy-Morgan Hill chapter, but the other destinations as well.

There were a few hitches. When the Wal-Mart trucks arrived at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Teamsters were initially scheduled to load the trucks, and Wal-Mart’s non-union status became an issue.

After Renteria got a union official on the phone and explained that the products were destined for members of the Armed Forces, he got the order to load the trucks.

“It was a wonderful example of putting politics aside to accomplish our only mission, that of caring for our young men and women in the armed forces,” said Renteria. “Everybody supports the troops. My hat is off to the Teamsters.”

At an OI “pack-in” held Friday night, more than 100 volunteers showed up to sign Christmas cards, stuff stockings and pack bags for military overseas, said volunteer and co-organizer Karen Humber.

The pack-in successfully packed about 40 boxes, including 700 Christmas stockings.

Operation Interdependence was founded to bypass the laborious process individuals must go through to get civilian products to the troops. Each box is inspected before being sealed, customs forms filled out, and transported to the final destination by military means. Arrival is therefore much faster.

Those interested in volunteering to help pack for Operation Interdependence may contact Julie Dawes at 779-1996 or Karen Humber at 848-2630. Some of the donated items will also go to local survivors of

Hurricane Katrina.

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