- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

For soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan or trying to heal at rehabilitation centers, Lorraine Leacock delivers a little piece of home when they need it the most.

Mrs. Leacock, of Herndon, is the founder of “Gifts for Heroes,” a donation program that sends supplies to soldiers to make them comfortable during their deployment.

“Simple things that you and I take for granted, like a candy bar [are what they want],” Mrs. Leacock said. “It’s just a little piece of home that makes them more comfortable and know that the people back home are thinking about them.”

Mrs. Leacock said she founded the program because she wanted to help the soldiers. Her husband, Army Brig. Gen. Edward A. Leacock, the Maryland National Guard’s assistant adjutant general, suggested she start a donation program.

“I discovered soldiers were asking for comfort items, and so I thought it was something I could fix,” she said.

Mrs. Leacock said she understands how difficult deployment can be for soldiers and their families.

“I’ve been a military wife for 16 years,” she said. “I know what it’s like to send your soldier off to points unknown.”

Since its beginning in June, the program has collected about 4,000 stuffed animals for children of the servicemen and women and “cartons and cartons of food” that have been sent to soldiers, Mrs. Leacock said.

She also has received donations from 10 states and jurisdictions, including Virginia, Maryland and the District.

Some of the items that the soldiers requested are Under Armour T-shirts, Gold Bond Medicated Foot Powder and greaseless sunscreen and bug repellant so that the sand and dust will not stick to the soldiers.

Gifts for Heroes has mostly spread by word of mouth.

Mrs. Leacock said that she received most of her support from friends, neighbors and customers of her company, Finishing Touches by Lorraine, which specializes in event and wedding planning.

While there has been a lot of local support for the program, Mrs. Leacock hopes that she can generate more from other sources.

“I’m going after large corporations, but it’s a long process,” she said. “Almost 98 percent of the support is just [from] regular neighbors and regular people.”

Gifts For Heroes volunteer Jon Dorough can’t see why more people are not helping.

“I can’t see any reason not to help; it’s supporting the people that are fighting for them,” he said. “These are our husbands, wives, sons and daughters that are out there and they need to be comfortable.”

But despite its recent beginnings, the program is on a roll, Mr. Dorough said.

“It’s getting big fast,” he said. “We need help in that it’s going to get to the point soon that we’re not going to be able to handle it all.”

Mrs. Leacock hopes that with the addition of corporate sponsors, the program will grow quickly.

“Basically in two months’ time, I’ve covered 10 states by word of mouth and e-mail,” she said. “I’m pretty sure that if I can do that in two months I can get it to be national by Christmas.”

She also hopes that when it expands, the program can focus on all servicemen and women, including firefighters and police officers.

“If they’re in a uniform, and they’re risking their lives for us, then they’re a hero and I want to help them,” she said.

Mrs. Leacock also would like to help the canines in the military, which she said are often forgotten.

“There are a lot of police dogs that don’t have bulletproof vests and the canine soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have special needs, too,” Mrs. Leacock said. “If you think it’s bad sitting in Iraq in the heat now, imagine sitting there in a fur coat.”

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