Help needed in getting 'Freedom boxes' to soldiers in Iraq

Tuesday, June 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A popular way for people here at home to show their support for the troops has been to send care packages overseas. But some of those boxes, bursting with goodies, never left.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood explains why those boxes are still on the homefront.

Mandy with radio station Mix96: "An email is good, but a package is better." A local radio station hit the airwaves to spread the word about freedom boxes. The idea was simple, fill a box with goodies and make a soldier's day. And thousands of Oklahomans got involved.

But some of the bundles of support that were supposed to go overseas have ended up in Owasso. "Some of them have been here for over a month." What started out, as a centralized drop off point has become a stopping place for nearly 200 Freedom boxes. Rev. Page Cole with the First Baptist Church in Owasso. "Right now we have 80 boxes that are ready to go. They're filled but we don't have the money to send them over."

Money's not their only problem. There are a hundred other boxes brimming with goodies, but they don't have a key requirement, a soldier's name. So, the Owasso church has a closet full of freedom boxes, no one to send them to and not enough cash to make the special delivery. Cole: "I think what happened was the war ended so quickly the excitement about the project dropped off before the funding ever came in."

For volunteers like Nelda Smith, who has spent her time collecting, sorting and packing, it's frustrating to see the boxes just sitting there. “And the kids have worked so hard even our preschool class have collected stuff for Freedom boxes and it would be really thrilling to see them go out."

And there's still a need. About 145,000 troops are still stationed in Iraq. Cole thinks if people realized that, they would get involved. “There are lots and lots of people that can give ten dollars and two people come together and they've sent a box that’s really gonna touch somebody's heart that’s laid their life on the line for them."

If you'd like to help call First Baptist Church in Owasso at 272-2294. It costs between $17 to $20 to ship a Freedom box.