Jim Stoddard, owner of PackCenter Shipping, stands with office manager Sarah Gillroy, next to packages ready to be shipped overseas to troops with APO addresses in Febuary. Donations from the public help to pay for shipping the packages to men and women in uniform stationed overseas.

File photo

Jim Stoddard, owner of PackCenter Shipping, stands with office manager Sarah Gillroy, next to packages ready to be shipped overseas to troops with APO addresses in Febuary. Donations from the public help to pay for shipping the packages to men and women in uniform stationed overseas.

Local shipping businesses work to send donations to soldiers overseas

How to help

• There are different regulations regarding what items can be delivered to different military outfits. Contact the Craig Post Office at 824-5795 or the general toll-free number 800-275-8777 for information.

• Anyone wishing to locate a serviceman overseas by name can find the correct procedure for each military branch at www.defenselink.m.... Be patient because the page takes a while to load.

• As of 2001, the U.S. Defense Department does not allow packages sent to "Any Soldier." It recommends people wishing to make donations without a specific soldier in mind send them to a nonprofit organization that collects them. Locally, those packages can be given to:

- Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, 419 E. Victory Way

- American Legion Post 62, 1055 County Road 7, which will deliver the packages to troops currently stationed in Colorado

- Pack Center Shipping, 509 Yampa Ave.

• The U.S. Postal Service recommends the following dates to ship by or before to ensure a package arrives by Christmastime:

- For packages going to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, first class and priority mail should be sent by Dec. 4.

- Most holiday mail sent to soldiers stationed overseas in other locations should be sent by Dec. 11.

- Express mail delivery will be available for packages intended to arrive by Christmas until Dec. 18.

- The recommended date for parcel post packages, the Post Office's lowest rate, passed Nov. 13.

— Some time ago, a woman came to PackCenter Shipping, worried about her son serving overseas, wanting to send him something - anything that might make him, and her, feel better, closer - but she could not afford shipping costs for three packages.

"Not only does she have do deal with the grief of having her son overseas, but she has to deal with the grief of not really being able to spend $50 to $60 on sending him packages," PackCenter owner Jim Stoddard said.

After meeting that mother, Stoddard began a program to help send packages to U.S. soldiers overseas.

His business accepts donations from anyone willing and uses the funds to collect, pack and ship items for overseas troops.

"It's a community fund, so if people want to ship something to their son, they can do that," Stoddard said.

"Everyone over there is a hero. It's the least we can do."

Stoddard's own father flew planes for the Air Force while he was stationed on an aircraft carrier, he said.

"He imparted a profound level of patriotism to his son," Stoddard said of their relationship.

Residents' patriotism continues to move him.

A man came into his store earlier this year and made a $200 donation to the mail fund.

The man was born a Mexican national and immigrated to the United States. His son volunteered for the military because he shared his father's sense of pride and honor toward this country, Stoddard said.

About a month before the man entered the store, his son died overseas.

"To see someone who lost his son, and he's a patriot, and he's still a patriot," Stoddard said. "That's sacrifice. That's a moving event for me."

Stoddard understands how life here can get in the way of people remembering soldiers serving halfway around the world, but he would like to see people thinking of them and thinking about the 40 to 50 families in Craig that have sons and daughters serving.

"Sometimes people forget they're over there," he said. "They forget there are guys over there. There's a complacency here. We get to worrying about fuel prices and the day-to-day problems, but they're still there, and they should be remembered."

Residents can donate items as well as money. If a person wants to contribute, but doesn't know the name of a soldier overseas, PackCenter keeps a record of local soldiers and will send the package to a randomly chosen name from that list.

Stoddard also offers to pick up, pack and ship any items people would want to send but don't want to deal with the weather or people who can't come to the store.

Many people send personal effects, or flea collars for soldiers to wear on their ankles because of desert sand fleas, Stoddard said.

For this holiday season?

"Just send some comfort items," he said. "Things that remind them of home."

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