HILLSBOROUGH, NJ  — Thousands of U.S. military service members serving abroad often lack access to many of their favorite snacks and toiletries, an absence that is felt even more keenly during the holiday season.

To help ensure they can enjoy this small reminder of home, The Rotary Club of Hillsborough is once again joining up with Operation Shoebox New Jersey to host the sixth annual Christmas Packing Event on Saturday, December 2, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hillsborough YMCA, 19 East Mountain Road. Members of the community are invited to participate in this special event to assemble the gift packages.

“Every year, hundreds of our community members have turned out for this special event to help ensure that our troops abroad can enjoy a few extra comforts from home,“ said Hillsborough Rotary Club President, Anthony Franchini.  “Over the years, they have shared their heartfelt expressions of gratitude in letters, emails and in person, telling us how much the gift packages mean to them while serving in a foreign land.”

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“We rely on the dedication of The Rotary Club of Hillsborough and the volunteers they assemble to help make this such a successful event,” said Rod Hirsch, founder and executive director of Operation Shoebox New Jersey. “It’s easy to get caught up in our own holiday plans this time of year, and this event is one way we can remember our troops and say thank you.”

At last year’s packing event, approximately 1,500 packages containing a wide assortment of foods, treats and toiletries were assembled by hundreds of volunteers  — both young and old — from Hillsborough and adjoining communities. The individual bags are grouped together into small boxes and then into larger containers for shipment abroad. 

The cost of shipping these boxes to the troops is funded by donations from The Rotary Club of Hillsborough and embers of the public. Cash donations to offset shipping costs can be made at the event or sent in advance by check to Operation Shoebox New Jersey, 152 Route 206, Hillsborough, NJ 08844.

Donations of appropriate, nonperishable food items, snacks, and toiletries, etc. can be dropped of at the same location.

To participate in the packing event, volunteers need only to show up at the Hillsborough YMCA; Rotary volunteers will provide packing instructions.  Call Operation Shoebox New Jersey at 908- 698-0333 for further information.

Operation Shoebox New Jersey, based in Hillsborough, was founded in February 2005. It is a volunteer grass roots organization dedicated to collecting donated supplies and shipping care packages to U.S. troops based in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East countries. Operation Shoebox seeks donations of food and personal care items that are placed in personal care packages shipped to members of the U.S. military deployed overseas. Requested items include canned tuna, canned fruit, 1 oz. boxes of cereal, dried fruit, trail mix, granola bars, beef jerky, small bags of pretzels and chips, small tubes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, small packets of moist wipes, soap, deodorant, small canisters of powder and small bottles of shampoo.