WHAT: Manasota Operation Troop Support
WHAT THEY'RE ALL ABOUT: Now that the United States is pulling its troops out of Iraq there are those that think the war is over and the military will take care of the returning troops. But there are still troops in Kuwait and Afghanistan and more being sent over in the coming year.
There are also troops who are coming home, but are having a difficult time readjusting to life outside of the military.
The volunteers at Manasota Operation Troops Support (MOTS) understand that the need is still there. Their mission is to provide support for the local deployed military troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait and to support their families here at home. They also will help the veterans who served in the middle east as they readjust to life back home.
The group started with care packages sent to the troops, said Linda Craig, executive Director of MOTS. The idea was to let the troops know that they had not been forgotten. The care packages include snacks, books and socks or underwear but the most important item in their boxes are the letters from members of the community.
"It's not about nutrition or sweet or salty snacks they can't get; it's about hope," Craig said. "Those packages show someone cares about them. You can see that in the emails that they send. They feel like they have families at MOTS."
Craig said one soldier told her if they had to stop sending the packages, that would be ok, as long as the letter continue to come. Those letter provide the troops with a huge boost in morale.
HOW TO HELP: Craig said letter writing is a great way for people in the community to volunteer. Volunteers also screen the letters who are written to the troops to make sure that nothing inappropriate is contained in the messages.
But MOTS also supports the families of the troops who are deployed. Volunteers help those who are left behind to raise their kids on their own with things like errands, home projects or car repairs, depending on their talents. MOTS also brings military spouses together in informal support groups. The host luncheons, bowling nights or just coffee meetings so that the spouses can meet each other and form friendships.
Sometimes MOTS helps do even more in support of the troops.
One military wife was undergoing cancer treatments while her husband was deployed. She was on her own with their child and the cancer treatments were sapping her strength. MOTS was able to help provide money for child care.
"It took the burden off of her husband who was in Iraq and had a job to do there and couldn't help his wife back home," Craig said. "We will do anything we can do to relieve their stress so that they can pay attention to what they are doing."
MOTS also serves as an information clearinghouse for military spouses and troops coming home and trying to return to the community and rebuild relationships.
Volunteers who have good organizational and communication skills are always welcome at MOTS.
One volunteer figured out an automates system that allows the customs forms, address labels and metering system for the care packages so that everything doesn't have to be done by hand.
"It has saved a tremendous amount of time," Craig said.
Another volunteer regularly organizes the stock room. Sorting donations and organizing eveything on shelves and boxes so that the packing parties for those boxes are fast and efficient.
Craig said the best way to get started as a volunteer in her organization is to come to a packing party and see what it's all about.
The next packing party will be held on Jan. 14 at 4301 32nd Street West Suite C20. The packing party begins promptly at 9 a.m. and it's best to get there early because these volunteers move quickly.