The local deadline for sending boxes is Dec. 1. The boxes used are the large Priority Mail boxes available for free from the United States Post Office.
Collection points in Barry and Lawrence counties are: the National Guard armories in Monett and Pierce City; the Pierce City Armory; the Bayou Restaurant; UMB Bank on Broadway; First State Bank; and the Purdy Farm Center. The Monett FFA Chapter will also be collecting boxes in a drive to be held at a later date at the Monett Walmart Supercenter.
"This is our opportunity to show our men and women serving in combat that we support them and have not forgotten about them," said the retired first sergeant promoting the local effort who prefers to remain anonymous.
Rhonda Luttrull began the Shoeboxes for Soldiers effort when her son, Dustin, served his tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2008.
"I felt a desperate need to do something," Luttrull said. "I wanted my son to know that he was loved and would not be forgotten. The only thing I could do was to send packages, and lots of them. A year's deployment, to me, could seem like a lifetime if you don't hear from home, especially in harm's way. Knowing this great need of our soldiers, I felt responsible to do more."
In the last four years, the Shoeboxes for Soldiers effort has shipped thousands of packages. Donors are urged to pack thank you letters, hygiene items, printed materials, music, games, snacks and dental supplies. A detailed list can be found at www.shoeboxes4soldiers.com.
"In past drives, we have noticed the number of boxes being sent over has fallen and this concerns me,," said the retired first sergeant. "It is so easy in our own hectic lives not to be able to take time to show our troops how much we really care and appreciate their continued deployments. If you have sent a box before, do it again. If you have never taken the time, why not start now?"
Each package will include a thank you letter written by Alvin Schad, of Monett, a former prisoner of war in the Korean conflict.
"If you have any troops deployed that you would like to send a care package to, please contact us at the website," Luttrull said.
A Barry County resident who prepared a shoebox for shipping sent the following letter to the campaign organizers: "Thank you for coordinating the Shoeboxes for Soldiers effort. Unless you have a family member serving, we Americans don't experience any sacrifices for the military defending us. I'd feel better if I had to ration something of value, but it's not the 1940s. It's a privilege to fill a box and feel like you're contributing something to those who protect us."
"Over the past few years, I have been amazed at the response of our local Barry and Lawrence counties," said the retired first sergeant. "Our soldiers are still subject to life and death situations. Please keep them in your heart and prayers daily."
For more information or to get involved with the effort, call 417-389-0517.