Celebrities, Volunteers Assemble 400,000 Care Packages

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 2008 - Actor and director Ben Affleck and other celebrities joined more than 1,000 volunteers over the weekend to put together 400,000 care packages for deployed troops at the National Guard Armory in Van Nuys, Calif.

Operation Gratitude, a California-based troop-support group, organized the event that also included actress and model Kathy Ireland and "Days of Our Lives" soap opera stars Deidre Hall, Jay Kenneth Johnson and Leanne Hunley.

"Every time we reach a milestone package, it is an acknowledgment of the immense generosity of the American people, and ultimately a tribute to our brave men and women in uniform who inspire each of us to be part of something greater than ourselves," Carolyn Blashek, Operation Gratitude's founder, said.

Community volunteers stuffed, taped, labeled and transported thousands of care packages, not stopping until Charlie Othold, director of operations, announced that the 400,000th package had hit the assembly line.

"This milestone package represents 20 million individual items, more than 2.8-million pounds and $40 million worth of product that Operation Gratitude has sent to troops deployed overseas since 2003," Othold said.

During the event, Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith presented the organization with a check worth more than $11,000, and Ireland thanked the volunteers for their "extraordinary devotion and hard work."

On Dec. 14, Blashek presented Affleck with an American flag flown over Multinational Corps Iraq headquarters in honor of his support of Operation Gratitude.

Affleck stressed the importance of thanking U.S. servicemembers, especially during the holidays, when they are far from home and loved ones.

*Related Sites:*
Operation Gratitude  [ ]
Celebrities, Volunteers Assemble 400,000 Care Packages [ ]