Members of VFW Post 294 of Albrightsville are helping our local service personnel based in combat areas of Afghanistan and Iraq by collecting donations of everyday personal items and shipping them directly to the individual soldier.

They have been visiting Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Bill's Shoprite, all in Mt. Pocono – where they collect most of their donations – and handing shoppers entering the store a list of items that can be sent to these areas.

The personal items being donated include toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, shaving cream, mouthwash, chapsticks, skin lotion, sunscreen, baby wipes, baby powder, foot spray, foot powder, hand & body soap, toilet paper Q-tips, eye drops, disposable razors, and toilet seat covers.

Shoppers who purchase items for donation can drop them off in collection boxes as they exit the store. The VFW post will ship multiples of each item directly to one service person rather than to a warehouse to ensure that the shipment, which can include many boxes, gets there intact.

Once the well-packed boxes of assorted items are received, a soldier can then distribute them to fellow service personnel.

Food items are also being donated, such as instant coffee, tea, tea bags, individual powder drink mixes, beef jerky, beef sticks, fruit snacks, tuna snack kits, pretzels, crackers, cookies, power bars, cup of soup, chocolate, gum, candy, microwave meals, and microwave popcorn.

Other items include puzzle books, hand-held games, blank CDs & DVDs, pencils, pens, new DVD movies, calling cards, and frisbees.

There are also some simple items that can actually be "lifesavers" for a soldier including balloons (to cover gun barrels and keep out the sand); Beanie Babies (to set off roadside bombs); and a common birthday party favorite – silly string – which can be sprayed ahead of a soldier to detect trip wires for booby traps. When the string hits a trip wire, it is too light to set it off but the wire is now visible.

VFW Post 294, which includes many active soldiers, is paying the membership dues while they serve their country.

The VFW project covers all service personnel from Carbon County located in a combat area, though they may not be serving on a front line. Anyone knowing of another person serving in the combat area can supply the post with their information and tit will try to include them on the list.

One requirement is that they join the post. An application for membership can be sent and for persons serving in the combat area, there is no membership fee.

While the articles that they send are donated, Post 294 pays for all the shipping. Last year more than $2,000 was spent for shipping expenses, which was raised by donations or fundraisers.

Shipments are made to a soldier about every two months from April to October. The next shipping date being Aug. 3.

Post 294 will also be holding a golf outing on Sept. 16 at Pocono Manor Golf Club in Pocono Manor, to help raise funds for the Post.

Anyone with items to donate, or names of soldiers from the area to be considered for their list, or any other questions or comments, can contact Albrightsville VFW Post 294 by calling 1-800-456-2322.