Southern California Homemaker Sends Care Packages to Troops in Iraq

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American military personnel in Iraq are getting moral support and packages from strangers they meet over the Internet. KPCC's Patricia Nazario reports on the ripple effects of one website that links troops on the ground with concerned citizens back home.

Pat Holster: There's 35 of them in there. They're singles to go, they're like Kool-Aids.

Patricia Nazario: That's 70-year-old Pat Holster, cataloging the items for her upcoming shipment.

Holster: And there's 48 boxes of this I just got on sale. And that's the granola bars.

Nazario: Holster's a retired homemaker in Torrance.

Holster: I'm getting down low on our beef jerky, 'cause they like that.
Nazario: Is that popular?
Holster: Oh, yeah! Popular, and so is sunflower seeds.

Nazario: Dry goods like these snacks fill several cardboard boxes in her spare bedroom.

Holster: There's my coffee, and my crackers, and my tea.

Nazario: This stuff's heading overseas, to the troops.

Holster: All this is granola bars. Popcorn.

Nazario: In return, Holster says, she's received emails, pictures, and holiday cards. Like this one that arrived last Christmas.

Holster (reading): I once again want to thank you for your gift to me. This is wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Iraq. We all thank you for the support.

Nazario: What does that mean to you when you get those?

Holster: Oh, it just thrills me, it really does. It makes me feel so good.

Nazario: About how many care packages have you sent out so far, to date?

Holster: Probably, I would say about 200.

Nazario: How do you divvy up? How do you decide who gets what of your inventory?

Holster: Sometimes they'll say, "We really want sunflower seeds. We want gummy bears, and I have gummy bears. Some guys have dogs, and they want treats for their dogs. I went after Christmas and I bought all kinds of just, a bunch of toys for the dogs. I pick up games, gum, tuna, canned tuna, you know.

Nazario: Are you like some retired heiress born into some rich family?

Holster: No. No, no, no! (laughing) No, we just do this. You know, my husband retired. And the more I've been doing, the more money I have at the end of the month. I always say, "Gee, we're kinda getting broke." But now, you know, I know there's a little extra, because then I can go buy more stuff and send more.