College campuses like the University of Georgia at Athens are known as a melting pot of political opinion, especially when America is involved in a war like the one currently underway in Iraq.
Theresa Giordano (standing) the president of Georgia Troop Supporters at the University of Georgia; Amanda Giordano, treasurer; and Logan Williams, public relations director, are three of the charter members of the group.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Amid pro- and anti-war discussions, a group of UGA students put politics aside and focused on human issues like making life a bit easier for American soldiers stationed in the war zone.
Evans resident Theresa Giordano formed The Georgia Troop Supporters organization, which is sending letters of encouragement along with care packages filled with a few comforts of home to show troops their efforts overseas are appreciated.
"There is an untapped reserve of people who wanted to support the troops but didn't know how," said Giordano, the group's president. "Whether you support the war or not, everyone is concerned about the troops."
That concern led them to "adopt" a 38-member platoon stationed in the Sunni triangle, a 100-mile area from Baghdad to Tikrit where guerrilla attacks are frequent.
"It's about the troops," Giordano said. "It's encouraging to see people get involved and come together to support them."
In addition to letters and care packages, the supporters plan to raise scholarship money for children of deceased soldiers through an organized run, and arrange for military speakers returning from Iraq to share their experience.
Members of the group will also travel to Aiken on July 12 to pick up donated handmade pillows from the Carolina Pine Quilters, a craft group that wanted to do something to help American troops in Iraq.
"Since we make quilts, pillows are nothing to make," said Debbie Rosenbloom, the quilting group's secretary.
Several club members have deployed spouses or other ties to the military, so they all decided to focus on the troops as part of their annual charity work.
Rosenbloom's Internet search for an organization to work through eventually led her to the Georgia Troop Supporters.
"To have college kids interested (in the troops) - interested me," Rosenbloom said.
Quilters are busy with the project dubbed Operation Pillow and said they are pleased their efforts will provide a much appreciated item - squishy, 18-inch-square pillows that soldiers can fit into rucksacks when not in use.
Pillows are just one item in short supply that soldiers crave. They also appreciate hand sanitizing gel, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, baby wipes, bar soap, shampoo, ear swabs, batteries, sports drink dry mix, lotion, comic books, bug spray, (non-melting) candy bars, paperback books, sunflower seeds, envelopes and writing paper, Giordano said.
The Georgia Troop Supporters, which geared up just as the spring semester ended at UGA, quickly grew to 25 members and continues to expand even during the summer months when the campus is quieter. Evans residents Andrea Wagner, Amanda Norris and Amanda Giordano are all charter members.
The group is fashioned after the Carolina Troop Supporters based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Several branches of supporters have banded together to form America's Network of Troop Supporters, a non-profit group that will enable donors to receive tax exemptions for gifts.
Supporters always need items to include in care packages and monetary donations to cover shipping costs. For information on donating, contact Giordano at (706) 461-2464 or e-mail TheresaG@uga.edu
They will also pick up donations Tuesday at 5-7 p.m. that are dropped off at Wesley United Methodist Church, 825 N. Belair Road.
To send monetary donations for postage costs, people can address the donations to: 4411 Pierwood Way, Evans, GA 30809.
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