Program sending items from home to soldiers overseas ends

Lack of funds for shipping, not a lack of items to ship, has ended a longtime program that provided items from home to soldiers on the front lines overseas.

Area residents will no longer be able to stop by the Halethorpe Fire Station on Washington Boulevard and drop off items ranging from toothpaste to magazines to hot sauce for delivery to the troops.

"We've been doing it for a long time," said Capt. Ed Sipes of the Halethorpe Fire Department, who has spearheaded the campaign to accept the donations from area residents for since 2005.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows has been running its Marine Mail Campaign from its North Point Lodge 4 in Edgemere.

"It's been forever," said Sipes, a former Marine.

The donations went to troops on the front lines who might not have access to the comforts of home, whether it was warm socks and cushioned inserts for their boots or hard candy, dried fruit and powdered drink mix for snacks.

"This went out to the boondocks or, what we call it, a line company," Sipes said. "These are the people that are actually doing the shooting."

"It was greatly appreciated by the troops," he said.

Sipes said he received a phone call from Larry Hoffman, chairman of the program, telling him about the program's end.

"In a nutshell, the coffee shop that was providing the funds (for the shipment), they went bankrupt and the organization can't put up any more money to send the stuff overseas," Sipes said.

Sipes said Hoffman was trying to arrange fundraisers to possibly keep it going, "but he couldn't get enough interest."

The people in the Arbutus, Halethorpe and Catonsville areas were the ones who kept the program going due to their large volume of donations, Sipes said.

"This area donated more product than anywhere else," Sipes said.

"You guys kept the program going, because strangely the other areas didn't generate the response," Sipes said.

Sipes said while the program's end will not affect anyone directly in the community, he thinks people will be upset to hear it is over.

"I think a lot of people will be disappointed when they hear they can't do it any longer," he said.

"A lot of folks constantly called and were bringing stuff to the station," he said.

Sipes said, with today's economy, the cancellation is hard, but sometimes unavoidable.

"I was very saddened, but these things happen," he said.

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