'eCarePackage' Program Ships Love to Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2007 - Operation Homefront is encouraging Americans to have a heart and "Share the Love" with a servicemember or military family this Valentine's Day through its "" program.

Operation Homefront is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector are supporting the nation's servicemembers., which started just before Christmas, is now offering Valentine's Day-themed care packages, Meredith Leyva, Operation Homefront's founder, said. There are four different packages to choose from, or the sender can create their own from items listed on the Web site.

"It's a great way for civilians to reach out and show their support for the troops," Leyva said. "So many people want to donate items and do care packages."

Now they can create a care package from items carefully selected by military spouses, who know from experience what troops request. This gives senders assurance their gesture will be appreciated by the recipient.

"Because those items are donated, the care packages are very inexpensive," Leyva said. "You only pay for shipping and handling, and any donations on top of that go directly to helping our charitable works."

When pointing and clicking on items to create a package, donors should keep in mind the shipping cost varies depending on the size of the care package.

The only requirement for a servicemember to receive an eCarePackage is to register with the program. About 2,000 servicemembers have done so, and those wanting to make sure they get packages can go to the Web site and "adopt" them for one package or more.

"I suspect that civilians will do it fairly frequently," Leyva said. "We hope that this year that the (Valentine's Day) campaign will remind Americans that they still need to support their troops even though it's after Christmas."

But, it's a two-way street, Leyva added. Servicemembers also can register their spouses and children, and surprise them with a care package for the holiday.

"It's a lot cheaper than sending flowers or doing a care package on (their) own," she said, adding that the program works well for anniversaries and children's birthdays as well.

The program is available year round, and the specially made Valentine's Day packages will be available through Feb. 14. Also, through a partnership with DHL shipping, care packages can arrive at their destination, whether stateside or overseas, in as little as three days, Leyva said.

Those who would like to register themselves or a loved one for the program can do so through the Web site, Leyva said, adding that the program is operationally secure.

"We have totally separated any contact information so that the only thing that outside visitors see is a first name, a general location, and then the customized requests of that individual," she said.

The registered individual's home state also is noted for those who prefer to treat servicemembers from their home states.

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