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Donations for troops create concerns

By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter


Will Langi, Dan Wissmar and Greg Hatfield of the 1457th combat battalion from Price relax in front of the barracks at Fort Lewis, Wash. Officials from Utah National Guard units encourage residents to arrange to send donations or letters supporting U.S. military personnel through the designated family assistance coordinators at local armories.

Carbon County citizens and residents across Utah are rallying to support United States military personnel in the field as well as the soldiers' families left at home.

But for local Utah National Guard family assistance coordinator Becky Tallerico, the well-meaning donations drives can be a nightmare at locations across the state.

"We really appreciate the support that the public is giving not only the service personnel, but also the families," pointed out Tallerico on Tuesday. "But the problem is that, without donated items and money going through our office at the armory, I'm afraid some of it isn't getting to whom it is supposed to go. We have a real mess going on in the state right now."

Several weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a news release asking Americans to refrain from sending unsolicited mail to service personnel for security reasons. Unsolicited mail, packages and donations from organizations or individuals also compete for limited airlift space used to transport supplies, war fighting materials and correspondence from loved ones.

But unsolicitied mail is only part of the problem.

"I constantly hear about different organizations and groups collecting items and money for the guardsmen and their families, yet we are never informed that it is going on," explained Tallerico. "The problem is that we are concerned that donations are not going where they are supposed to and we can't know if they are getting to the proper people if they don't come through the office at the armory."

The family assistance coordinator office was set up to handle matters during times or armed conflict. Yet despite recent reports in the news media, many people ignore the requests to place donations and send materials through the proper channels.

"We know that people's intentions are terrific, but this all has to be handled in a coordinated way," indicates Tallerico, whose husband and son are with the 1457th combat battalion contingent from Price.

There are a number of concerns about residents donating items blindly upon request. The first concern is whether the individuals or organizations seeking donations actually plan to see that military families and service members get the items or cash. There have been some instances throughout the country of unscrupulous individuals bilking people in the name of troop support. Second, people are often not thinking clearly when they donate, particularly when sending items to service personnel in the field.

"The fact is that, if service members can't fit what they get into their duffle bags or in their pockets, they will not be able to keep it," noted Tallerico. "People's intentions are terrific, but if they are mismanaged it just causes problems."

Another difficulty involves massive mailings, like from students.

"These letters, drawings and notes are just precious to the servicemen. But they cannot be sent individually because the numbers become overwhelming," stated Tallerico. "Any one who wants to do a group mailing like this should contact us. We will bundle it up and send it in one mailing."

She encouraged Carbon County residents to make donations for military personnel and families through the armory.

"That main reason is so that we can document the donations and that we can inform the service people about it," explained Tallerico. "They would like to know. "

"We would like to see people donate stamps because mailing from families to service people gets so expensive," she continued. "Also, phone cards are an excellent donation. But we have found, for those overseas, that the only cards that consistently work are AT&T cards. Remember, too, that any cards donated must be international calling cards."

In addition, Tallerico urged local residents to contact the armory for instruction on how to conduct fundraising activities for military members and their families.

"That's a must," she explained. "Without it, our soldiers will either get things they don't need or can't use or they won't get anything at all."

The Price office not only helps people from the local Utah National Guard battalion, but all individuals serving in any capacity, whether it be in the nation's regular armed forces or reserve units, pointed out Tallerico.

"If they will just contact us, we will work with them, too," she said.

Interested parties may contact Tallerico at the armory at 637-1743.





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