Taste of home

Vo­lun­teers with Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines un­der­take an an­nu­al hol­i­day drive with a loc­al fla­vor.

Don Cam­pan­ile was in the U.S. Mar­ine Corps a long time ago, but Mar­ines serving over­seas re­main on his mind — es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­days.

Mar­ines in Afgh­anistan need items that aren’t read­ily avail­able on the front lines of the war on ter­ror. Cam­pan­ile, who served from 1954 to ’57, works with oth­ers in­volved in the or­gan­iz­a­tion Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines to make sure Mar­ines and Navy Corps­men get them.

In the stock­ings will be Tastykakes, Di­etz and Wat­son saus­ages, toi­letries, razors, blades, ci­gars and candy, along with head­lamps and rifle and bore clean­ers, Cam­pan­ile said.

“In gen­er­al, we try to get them things they can’t get read­ily at the PX,” he said.

Last week­end, Cam­pan­ile, of Lawndale, and hun­dreds of oth­er vo­lun­teers filled the Up­per Mo­re­land In­ter­me­di­ate School’s “cafetor­i­um” to load up Christ­mas stock­ings and gift bags that they’ll send abroad in time for Christ­mas.

“We plan to send 5,500 over to Afgh­anistan … some flown out to the front lines,” he said.

Stock­ings are boxed and sent to each unit’s ser­geant ma­jor, Cam­pan­ile said on Sunday as he was stuff­ing stock­ings. The gifts are then dis­trib­uted. “We already did a trail­er-load on Sat­urday,” he said.

Jim Ag­ger, the Wil­low Grove post­mas­ter, said the boxes of gift stock­ings are shipped to New York and then go over­seas from there. On Sunday, he said he ex­pec­ted the gifts would start ar­riv­ing in Afgh­anistan in sev­en to 10 days, which means Mar­ines will be­gin see­ing them a few days be­fore Christ­mas, Cam­pan­ile said.

Amer­ica4RMar­ines has been send­ing pack­ages to Mar­ines sta­tioned over­seas for six Christ­mases.

“Last year, we sent out 5,300,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines Web site, the non-profit or­gan­iz­a­tion shipped 14 tons of gifts — $500,000 in mer­chand­ise — dur­ing the 2010 Op­er­a­tion Merry Christ­mas Mar­ines and Sail­ors.

More than 200 help­ers were on hand to pack up this year’s gifts for two days last week­end. They in­cluded lots of people from the North­east, Cam­pan­ile said, as well as mem­bers of the Mar­ine Corps League and the VFW.

“Lots of people are in­volved,” he said. Santa was there, too.”

Every­one is a vo­lun­teer, Cam­pan­ile said, but the stock­ings’ con­tents and ship­ping them have big price tags. Dona­tions dropped off drastic­ally from last year, Cam­pan­ile said, and ship­ping the pack­ages costs a bundle.

“We’ll spend $13,000 to $15,000 just to ship,” he said.

Patty Lewis, of Wil­low Grove, foun­ded Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines six years ago. You might say she has a per­son­al in­terest in the Corps. Her son Bri­an was de­ployed over­seas three times. He is home now, but for Lewis, mak­ing sure Mar­ines sta­tioned far from fam­ily and friends dur­ing the hol­i­days get something from home goes well bey­ond fam­ily con­sid­er­a­tions.

No mat­ter our polit­ic­al lean­ings, she said, “The Mar­ines must see we stand be­hind them.” ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

Gen­er­ous to the Corps

Any­one can donate to the Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines’ an­nu­al Op­er­a­tion Merry Christ­mas cam­paign. Vis­it amer­ica4rmar­ines.org or make a check pay­able to “Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines” and mail to:

TD Bank

C/O Amer­ica 4R Mar­ines

2900 W. Mo­re­land Road

Wil­low Grove, PA 19090-3051

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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