Freeland woman ships a little TLC to troops

Packages are taking over the Freeland home of Carol Briggs

FREELAND — Packages clutter the top of the table and stand in neat stacks on the floor in Carol Briggs’ Freeland home. They are crammed with travel-size bottles of lotion, shampoo and body wash, baby wipes and assorted snacks.

It might seem like a strange combination, but not if you’re putting together care packages to send to U.S. military troops, which is what Briggs is doing.

“My niece’s husband is in the military and we watched her struggle to try to put together boxes to send to him, so we decided to take over and send him some things he needs,” Briggs explained. “Then it turned into two people, and now we’re supporting 265 men and 80 women with care packages.”

Briggs started doing this two months ago. So far, she is sending packages to three Navy units, two Marine units and one Air Force unit. The packages aren’t meant specifically for one person, but for personnel to share. And they’re being sent all over — a majority are going to Afghanistan, but others are being sent to personnel stationed elsewhere, like Korea, for example.

“They’re not for any one particular person, but to anyone who needs it,” said Briggs. “Right now there are troops in need of sheets and towels.”

A former Army brat, Briggs said she remembers her father talking about getting care packages from his family when he was deployed, and how much it meant to get those little pieces of home. That’s why she is enjoying her efforts now.

“It’s kind of paying it forward,” she said. “I’ll do it as long as I can. I’d like to see this go huge.”

Briggs is calling her effort “Operation Care Packages” and has set up a message phone line and email for anyone with questions, or for anyone who would like her help in sending items to specific military personnel.

She is also planning on doing a collection drive for items from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 12 at the Goose Community Grocer in Bayview, where she plans to pass out information and lists of the most popular items. Items can also be dropped off at American Legion Post 141 in Langley.

Some of the most requested things include flip-flops, baby wipes, yogurt snack bars, quality feminine hygiene products, hand sanitizer and seasoning packets from local fast food restaurants.

“From what I understand the MREs (meals ready-to-eat) are pretty much gross,” laughed Briggs. She holds up a bag of taco sauce and barbecue sauce from restaurants. “But apparently this helps.”

Briggs said she has approached several companies to ask about getting items donated, but because she is not an established corporation or nonprofit agency, she said she has “been getting a lot of ‘no’s’.”

“I hate to ask for things because I know the economy is bad,” she said. “But I’m finding that for every ‘no’ I get three ‘yes’s,’ which is pretty cool.”

Another thing Briggs is hoping to arrange is to get letters from local school children to send along in the boxes. She plans to contact area schools in hopes of getting some classes to write to troops.

“I guess when they get letters, they plaster them all over the walls for everyone to see and enjoy,” Briggs said. “I write little notes on the boxes, too. Anything to make a soldier smile. It’s a hard job for them.”

Briggs estimates she’s mailed more than 50 packages so far. She recently sent out 20 packages in two days, spending about $200 on postage. That doesn’t include the money she spent buying all the items to put in the boxes to supplement donated items.

It’s a price she’s willing to pay.

“I’m not looking for recognition, just something to send to the troops,” she said.

Join the drive

Carol Briggs will hold a collection drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, May 12 at the Goose Community Grocer on Highway 525 in Bayview.

Those interested are invited to drop off items to send to deployed U.S. military personnel. Donations can also be dropped off at the American Legion Post 141 in Bayview.

For more information about Operation Care Packages call Briggs at 331-5090 or email at cp4a@whidbey.com.