Celebrate Military Appreciation Month: Donate to Operation Interdependence

Staff Sergeant Chad Janssen works to evenly distribute quart

May is Military Appreciation Month, which means there’s no time like now to support servicemen and women by donating to Operation Interdependence.

Known as O.I., this civilian-to-military delivery system sends quart-sized bags filled with treats, toiletries and handwritten letters to U.S. troops overseas in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. Gilroy’s local chapter has been active for nine years, is 100 percent volunteer run and sends 20 to 30 care packages a month.

Because of this, “postage is an ongoing expense,” said local O.I. Chapter Manager Suzie Kugler, who pays $400 to $800 a month in postage fees. “We are in need of money for shipping our boxes overseas…I am so happy with any donation.”

The need is ongoing. Kugler and her volunteers need at least 1,000 handwritten letters and enough items to fill 1,000 bags on a monthly basis.

Operation Interdependence was launched in 2001 during a tour of duty in the Gulf War by retired Chief Warrant Officer Albert R. Renteria, who saw the need for an efficient method of distributing donated care packages to soldiers – without turning an unnecessary number of deployed forces into delivery middlemen. His brainchild was Operation Interdependence: A streamlined system connecting civilians to soldiers directly through the U.S. Postal Service. Volunteers facilitate everything – from promotion, to packaging and postage. O.I. is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization completely dependent on donations; commanding officers need only provide addresses.

All donations to O.I. are tax deductible. For more information about donating to Gilroy’s local O.I. Chapter, see the box included with this story.

Other ways to help: Memorial Day event will donate proceeds to O.I.

The 3rd Annual Gilroy Memorial Day Car Show & Parade will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 28 at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy. The event will feature a car show, entertainment for the whole family and raffle prizes, with all proceeds going to the Gilroy Memorial Day Committee and Operation Interdependence.

The car show is limited to 275 cars. Early registration for $30 ends May 14; afterwards registration is $35. Make checks payable to the Gilroy Community Organization. Send registration fees, along with the necessary form (which you can download from this article) to PO Box 1655, Gilroy, CA, 95020.

Questions? Call Jerry Mangono at (408) 607-0695 or email him at [email protected]

• A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit civilian-to-military delivery system that sends quart-sized bags filled with treats, toiletries and letters to troops stationed overseas. Christopher High School hosts an O.I. drive annually.
• The goal is to send 1,000 letters and baggies of supplies overseas each month.
• To make a donation, visit the O.I. chapter headquarters in Gilroy between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays at 8401 Church St. on the corner of Welburn Avenue. If you visit during off-hours, letters can be dropped off through a slot. If you have a large donation that you would like to drop off in person, call O.I. Site Manger Suzie Kugler at (408) 847-5906.
• Suggested items to donate: (Food) Individually packaged tea, cocoa, powdered drink mixes, single serving sized cookies, trail mix, Corn Nuts, small packs of almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, gum (Eclipse is a favorite), hard candy (sealed, no twists), microwave popcorn, granola bars, Rice Krispie Treats, beef jerky. (Supplies) travel-size shampoo, conditioner, gel, lotions, disposable razors, small toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes (sealed), sunscreen, bug repellent (small tube, non-aerosol), socks, Odor Eaters for boots, eye drops, Chapstick (with seals), hand sanitizer (small container), moist towelettes, baby wipes, prepaid international phone cards, decks of playing cards and small games.

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