Dad gets help from students and grocer to keep daughter's Air Force unit stocked

Ron Glicksman was appalled when the pictures arrived. Glicksman, a Cockeysville resident, has a daughter, Nicole Alley, who is stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Shortly after arriving there Alley, who is approaching her 20th year of service in the Air Force, sent home word — and photos — showing that the shelves in the base's commissary were bare.

Along with those surprising photos came a list of what her parents could send to help.

Glicksman admits that when he received that photo — with a sign a bare shelf explaining that logistical challenges were making it difficult to get supplies such as shampoo and snacks into the country — he was angry.

He called Sen. Barbara Mikulskiand Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger to ask why his daughter couldn't get supplies, and even sent a message to the White House.

Glicksman couldn't understand why letters and packages he sent to his daughter could make their way to Bagram, but supplies from the military could not.

He was eventually told by the Department of Defense that while mail can be sent through any country, space on military planes is limited. And some things, they said, simply aren't priorities.

So he took matters into his own hands. The first box, prepared by Glicksman and his wife, Rosalie, was sent on Dec. 9.

Since then, with the help of Dulaney High School students and the local Mars supermarket, 15 more boxes of food, toiletries and supplies have been sent to make Alley's time in the frigid northern province a bit more bearable.

"If I could go over there and take her place, I'd do it today," Glicksman said. "But if I can't save her over there, then I might as well make it easier."

Glicksman first went to local stores to request aid in his quest to send supplies overseas. One store initially offered him a $200 gift card with which to shop, but revoked the offer when Glicksman didn't have certification as a nonprofit.

"I'm just a dad, not a nonprofit," he said.

Other stores told him they'd be happy to help out, but have not yet come through.

Mars, however, was more than happy to help. Glicksman said they went through their wholesalers and were able to get boxes of cookies, juices and other items sent directly to the store for him.

Representatives from Mars did not make themselves available for comment for this story, but Glicksman spoke their praises in saying how cooperative they've been.

Glicksman also sought help at his daughter's alma mater, Dulaney High School.

Rachel Baikauskas, a social studies teacher at Dulaney, was asked by Assistant Principal John Billingslea to lead the program. Baikauskas obliged, and the typically active student body did the rest.

"I couldn't believe the response from Dulaney," Glicksman said. "They did one heck of a terrific job. I started to cry when I saw it. I didn't expect such a great amount of help, and yet they thanked me for giving them the project."

Dulaney students have won the county's food drive in three of the last four years, and though the fruits of that effort also help those in their community. They also rallied around Alley and her need.

"They understand the necessity of the situation," Baikauskas said. "My homeroom didn't participate much in the canned food drive, but really mobilized in this one, I think more so because of the story behind it."

"Our students are very generous and caring," said Principal Lynda Whitlock. "They often reach out, and when a worthy cause and need from an alumni and her family is brought to their attention, they're very quick to share and to support others."

Since the efforts began, Glicksman said the work has been collective.

At Mars, employees help load his trunk. Friends and family help him carry the boxes to be shipped and pay for shipping costs.

In the basement of their Cockeysville town house, Ron and Rosalie Glicksman pack up the boxes that they are personnally sending.

At the foot of the stairs, like a bounty of Christmas presents spread out around the table that holds photos of Alley, piles of donated supplies ranging from crackers and cookies to water-flavors and Capri Sun juice pouches await packing and shipment overseas.

In the wake of the recent tragic deaths of Afghan villagers in Kandahar — which occurred after Glicksman's most recent drive — many believe support for military personnel serving there is more critcal than ever.

Glicksman says he's proud of the community effort — and pleased that he's found a way for at least some supplies to make it through.

He said Alley herself related a story to him that still makes him smile. On a visit to her office, a private contractor saw the spoils of her old neighborhood's efforts.

"It's official," the contractor told Alley. "You have more food than the commissary."

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