submitted photo — Soldiers serving overseas open a care package sent last year by Operation GRITS, Gifts Raised in the South, which has delivered more than 1,500 care packages to servicemen and servicewomen. Local residents can fill boxes with items ranging from toiletries to Little Debbie cakes and drop them off at Reed Insurance locations in Vidalia or Ferriday.
submitted photo — Soldiers serving overseas open a care package sent last year by Operation GRITS, Gifts Raised in the South, which has delivered more than 1,500 care packages to servicemen and servicewomen. Local residents can fill boxes with items ranging from toiletries to Little Debbie cakes and drop them off at Reed Insurance locations in Vidalia or Ferriday.

Operation GRITS prepares for 4th year of sending packages

Published 12:10am Monday, October 14, 2013

VIDALIA — As Miss-Lou residents start thinking about their holiday shopping, one Vidalia woman wants everyone to consider a small gift for troops overseas.

More than 1,500 care packages from the area have already found their way into the hands of grateful servicemen and servicewomen, and Pattie Reed Jones wants the number to grow.

As the founder and chief organizer of Operation GRITS, Gifts Raised in the South, Jones spearheads efforts to send U.S. Postal Service boxes full of goodies to troops for Christmas.

Using the Facebook page “Operation Grits for Soldiers” as a hub, she is organizing the effort for a fourth consecutive year.

Those interested in helping can contact her to pick up a box or stop by Reed Insurance in Vidalia on Carter Street. When filled, the boxes can be dropped off at Reed Insurance locations in Vidalia or Ferriday or at the chamber of commerce in Vidalia.

Jones is also busy passing out the boxes to schools, churches, businesses, individuals, groups, clubs or anyone else who wants to participate.

Each comes with a list of suggested items to supply.

“I encourage them to take the box and the list of suggested items and fill the boxes and bring them back to me with postage, $14.85 this year, and we take care of the rest,” Jones said. “We take care of making sure they are taped properly, labeled properly. Usually, I set a night and I let anyone who wants help spend that evening boxing, wrapping, labeling, doing everything that needs to be done. I drop them off to the post office the next morning to make sure they are sent overseas.”

Jones said she needs the boxes back by Dec. 14.

In years past, Jones has identified a local soldier overseas, who acts as the delivery point for the boxes. That soldier, Jones said, then distributes the boxes.

“We ask for different supplies: toiletries, toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, deodorant,” Jones said. “Put some of the needy things in there, and we encourage them to put some of the goodies in there too, like Little Debbie cakes, Rice Krispie treats or beef jerky.

“They love to get bubble gum, Community Coffee, drink mixes, Gatorade mixes, any of that kind of stuff.

“It’s just to make sure they know at Christmas they are not forgotten and are appreciated during that time of the year.”