Donations for "Support the Troops" can be dropped off at Steamboat Real Estate, Prudential Steamboat Realty. Monetary donations can be sent to "Support the Troops" in care of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, P.O. Box 881869, Steamboat Springs, CO, 80488.
Steamboat Springs Clean socks, chocolate and fly swatters may not seem like extravagant Christmas presents, but for soldiers facing danger far from home, life's simple pleasures - or basic essentials - can be very meaningful.
"Some guys and girls don't get anything from anybody, and that really hurts my heart," said Marci Valicenti, who created the "Support the Troops" nonprofit organization in 2002 to collect merchandise, gifts and cash for care packages that make life easier for servicemen and women.
"To think they are over there defending their country and they don't have anything," she said.
This month marks the fifth holiday season that Steamboat Springs residents Valicenti and Molly Hibbard have sent care packages to soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This all began after what I call 'a chance conversation,'" Valicenti said. "We are both Realtors and I had just come back from visiting ground zero with my family, and her son was going off to war. We talked about wanting to do something."
Hundreds of care packages later, the two women continue to collect goods such as DVDs, body and foot powders and socks.
This "time of year, we can send chocolate, and in April we send sunscreens and moisturizers," Valicenti said. "We have also sent homemade cookies, pest control, fly swatters, fly traps and mouse traps too."
Care packages are shipped throughout the year, but Valicenti said she increases the number of packages during the holidays. Chess and checker games, hardback books and recycled magazines also are needed.
"This month alone, we have sent 27 packages and we have more to send," she said. "The unfortunate part is that donations have dropped dramatically. : I attribute that to the length of the war."
Packages are sent to soldiers whose names were submitted to Valicenti's group by local families. One soldier with local roots, Andrew Parmley, recently sent his gratitude for the unexpected gifts.
"I wanted to take a minute to let you know that I have given the items in the boxes out to everyone in my battalion and that we greatly appreciate your support," said Parmley, who is serving in Iraq. "Thank you for your gifts from all the warm hearts Colorado is known for."
Valicenti said that when she started sending care packages to Afghanistan in 2002, she never thought she would be sending gifts five years later.
"I know people have mixed emotions on the war, and our stance is not political for the war," she said. "But we are supporting the guys and girls that are over there. We want them to know it's not just their families that care about their safety and well-being."
Valicenti noted she has no intention in quitting her care package efforts.
"It's been an incredibly worthwhile thing for me to do," she said. "I can't give up. I'll do it until it's done and I'll do it until they all come home, I guess."
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