Volunteer group asks public to help write letters for the military

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TASTE OF HOME Operation Interdependence volunteer Susan Mister shows a sample of the letters and goodies the organization sends to troops overseas. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

For nearly two decades, volunteers have packed boxes filled with goodies and shipped them to troops overseas, hoping to give them a taste of home as they battle in unfamiliar territory.

The nationwide Operation Interdependence organization, which was formed shortly after 9/11, has a strong presence in Gilroy, where volunteers regularly ship 450 packages every month filled with such things as snacks, toiletries and candy.

But a series of events over the past few years, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, has caused a shortage of what some volunteers refer to as the most important part of the care packages: the heartfelt, handwritten letters.

“In the past, we’ve had no problems getting the letters,” said longtime volunteer Susan Mister. “Now, we are struggling with getting letters.”

Operation Interdependence operates out of an office space donated by commercial developer Mark Sanchez at 7877-D Wren Ave. In the recent past, the group of about a dozen volunteers would meet every Tuesday to pack boxes and write letters. Now, due to the public health order and social distancing requirements, the volunteers come in on their own schedule and in much smaller groups in order to limit the number of people in the building at a time.

The organization worked with Christopher High School, where members of the Associated Student Body would gather items and write letters, which Mister estimated provided Operation Interdependence with six months’ worth of shipments annually. But the teacher who helped organize the drive retired a few years ago, leaving the organization without one of its most significant letter-writing campaigns.

CARE PACKAGE Drawings, snacks and more accompany the handwritten letters shipped to troops. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Thanks to its fiscal responsibility, Mister said the organization has enough product to fill the boxes and funds for shipping costs. The letters, however, are something money can’t buy.

The letters, written by everyone of all ages, are an expression of gratitude, Mister said. Letter-writers are also encouraged to write about themselves and what is going on in their local community.

“It really touches the hearts of those that are serving,” she said. “It gives them a taste of home.”

She added that students can receive community service hours for volunteering with the organization.

“We are extremely fortunate with the generosity of this community,” Mister said.

Letters can be dropped off through a mail slot at 7877-D Wren Ave. For information, call/text Mister at 408.206.0618 or area manager Suzi Kugler at 408.710.3927.

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