News 12 This Morning / Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012
EVANS, Ga. -- As the weather gets cold here, it's getting even colder in Afghanistan where many of our military members are stationed. Most of them are staying in tents and sleeping bags with no heat through the winter months. One local group is trying to keep them warm through Operation Hand-Warmer.
It all started with an email asking for hand-warmers, but the group is now taking it above and beyond sending entire care packages. They fill boxes with all sorts of items and ship them over and say that's all it takes to make a soldier's day.
"I've been over there and they've actually almost cried opening these boxes up and knowing that people here in this country really care about them," said Burt Sappenfield, founder of Operation Hand-Warmer.
Hand-warmers, baby wipes, Jolly Ranchers and beef jerky are just a few of the items in the packages. They say the hand-warmers keep them warm, the baby wipes keep them clean and the jolly ranchers and beef jerky are the comfort foods that remind them of home.
"When a soldier tells you that he's pulling guard duty and it's minus 10 degrees in the Afghan mountain pass and he puts the hand-warmers in his boots, in his gloves, in his hat to keep his ears and head warm. That's why it's so important," Sappenfield said.
The first round started back in January. Organizers raised $27,000 in donations in just two months.
"We ended up with 11,600 hand-warmers in about three weeks," Sappenfield said.
Now, its round two. It runs from mid-October to Dec. 7. They've already shipped out 50 boxes and their goal is to ship out 200 to 300 before the holidays.
"When these guys get these packages I can promise you that they that small package will be the greatest gift they are gonna get this year for Christmas," said Jeff Hawn, U.S. Army veteran.
In each box there's also a handwritten card, another reminder to the soldiers that someone back home is thinking about them.
It's something Sappenfield has seen firsthand.
"He gets out, he's got arms the size of my legs, and I go up and give him a pack of Gatorade or a hand towel and he literally cries right there in the desert because he knows somebody cares. Then, you know it means a lot," he explained.
Sappenfield has received tons of emails asking for other thins. Each time they hear from a solider, they add the item to the list.
So far these are things they are looking for:
- Hand-warmers (Can be found in sports/camping section of Walmart, etc.)
- Trail mix
- Beef jerky
- Slim Jims
- Jolly Ranchers
- Baby wipes (small package)
- Foot powder
- Chef Boyardee in small plastic containers
- Sun flower Seeds
- Snack bars (no chocolate)
- Travel size deodorant
- Tuna packets
You can buy any of these items and take them to Century 21 Larry Miller Realty. They say filling each box costs around $75, but if you just want to drop off a few items, they will fill the boxes themselves.