MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Comfort packages to 500 men and women serving overseas in the U.S. Armed Forces will be sent by United for the Troops thanks to the county’s Defend the Holidays initiative.
“During the season of giving, it was important to remember that our greatest gift is that of freedom,” County Executive MaryEllen Odell said. “I launched the Defend the Holiday program, a joint effort with United for the Troops and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, to supply comfort packages to those serving overseas in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
United for the Troops is a 501-c-3 nonprofit that sends care packages to troops serving overseas. It was started by Mahopac residents Jim and Pat Rathschmidt. The couple, along with their friends and neighbors, launched the organization in 2007 when Rathschmidt’s son, Luke, was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Following numerous conversations with service men and women, the group found out that while the military provides soldiers with the essentials for day-to-day life, many of them miss the extra amenities that they enjoy while at home. The organization’s purpose is to make the soldiers’ lives a little better while serving overseas by sending items such as cookies, DVDs, CDs, snacks and t-shirts.
“While all of our comfort packages are made up of donated items, it costs us about $15 to ship a care package overseas,” Jim Rathschmidt said. “Through the great efforts of MaryEllen Odell and the Putnam County Sheriff Department we will be able to pay the shipping for 500 gift boxes being sent to our men and women serving our country overseas. Thanks to the generous support we received, our mission to ‘bring a little comfort to our troops’ will continue on.”
While many of the county employees contributed toward the giving campaign, one person in particular went the extra mile. Putnam County Sheriff Deputy Corinne Pitt, who is a school resource officer at Putnam Valley High School, collected donations totaling $350 from the school staff to support the Defend the Holidays initiative.
“It was such a pleasant surprise to have Deputy Pitt come to my office to present us the money she had collected from the generous families from Putnam Valley High School,” Odell said.
In addition to the donations received from the county employees, county Seniors and the residents of Putnam County, the campaign received $610 from the NYC Firefighters Hudson Valley East and $500 from the Putnam County PBA.
United for the Troops has sent more than 16,000 comfort packages to the troops since its inception.
To learn more about volunteering or making donations to United for the Troops, visit www.unitedforthetroops.com