Volunteer effort to focus on care packages for troops
URBANA — After sending out thousands of Beanie Babies for soldiers to give to children, a national effort that started here has changed its focus to the warriors themselves.
Toys for Troops is now Operation Warrior Watch, and volunteers will gather from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at the ILEAS Building, 1701 E. Main St., U, to ship off presents for servicemen and -women who are overseas for the holidays.
Laura Stewart of Urbana, who founded Toys for Troops six years ago when her son Brian Jolley was deployed to Iraq for the first of two tours, said the changeover was caused by a decrease in the demand for toys as troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
Jolley, now a sergeant, is stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas and serves as vice president of the organization. He said the post-traumatic stress disorder he has experienced in his own life meshes with the organization's new name and mission.
Stewart said Operation Warrior Watch's overall mission — with soldiers, families, veterans and volunteers — "is to ultimately help each other out and educate people.
"There are serious issues to discuss, and PTSD is at the forefront," she said.
On Dec. 7, volunteers will wrap gifts and pack care boxes with presents and homemade goodies, ensuring that everyone on the group's mailing list is remembered at the holidays.
Care packages can include gift cards to online companies that will ship to APO addresses, DVDs, current magazines, water bottles, cozies for bottles and cans, tan, green or black T-shirts and socks.
Donations are tax-deductible. You can mail checks to Operation Warrior Watch, Inc. NFP, P.O. Box 17188, Urbana, IL 61803.
If you can't make it to the event, call 621-4950 to make an appointment for pick up, or for a drop-off location.
You can also make a PayPal donation at operationwarriorwatch.org.