- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

While the combat has heated up in Iraq, the weather has been cooling down. Both are good reasons to donate to Operation Air Conditioner.

The oncoming winter, with its chilly nights and rainy days, has led Frankie Mayo’s operation to shift direction. For the next few months, it will be sending space heaters instead of air conditioners to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The operation is also sending footwear, since Mrs. Mayo found a way to procure desert boots at about 40 percent off what the Pentagon pays. She is sending plenty of other supplies too, ranging from toothpaste and toothbrushes to Tiki Torches.

Unlike the air conditioners, mailing such supplies has posed no problem for the post office. Earlier this month, Mrs. Mayo purchased 1,000 heaters, which are already being shipped to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Home Depot has set up a Web site (linked to Operation Air Conditioner’s), which allows space heaters to be donated directly to the troops.

Mrs. Mayo also started a unique Adopt-a-Soldier program. Under it, any American can make a soldier a part of their family by filling out a form on the Web site. Upon signing up, Mrs. Mayo pairs the soldier with his or her adopted family, and passes on contact information for care packages to be sent and communication to be maintained. Soldiers from about 2,000 units have already been taken in under the program. Family members of soldiers in the field can also send space heaters and boots directly to them through the operation’s Web site.

Operation Air Conditioner is also sending holiday gifts to soldiers. However, the packages should be mailed unwrapped, since they will have to be sorted, repacked, inspected and listed on U.S. Customs forms. That process will be slowed by sending many small boxes, so it is better to send supplies and presents in just a couple of large boxes.

A donation of $35 — about what one would spend on a holiday sweater — will ensure that a soldier does not freeze during the holidays. A donation of about $100 will cover the cost of a heater and a new pair of boots, keeping a soldier warm and well-shod through the winter.

For solders in Iraq and Afghanistan, the chill of winter weather will be compounded by the chill of being far from home and close to danger. A space heater or a simple check written to Operation Air Conditioner will warm their hands and may lighten their hearts. Visit www.operationac.com, or make out a check payable to Operation Air Conditioner and mail it to Operation Air Conditioner; 560 Peoples Plaza; Box #121; Newark, Del., 19702.

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