Volunteers help pack boxes for active military

Published 12:11 am Sunday, December 7, 2014

NATCHEZ — Operation GRITS is continuing to offer its gratitude by thinking outside of the box by providing a surplus of holiday goods for servicemen and servicewomen.

GRITS has shipped more than 2,000 care packages to troops since its inception, and chief organizer Pattie Reed Jones said that number will grow as local volunteers filled U.S. Postal Service boxes Friday night at Reed Insurance in Vidalia.

Area schools, churches, businesses, organizations and individuals also filled boxes for Jones’ cause, which is now in its fifth year.

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“Right now, it looks like we will have about 350,” Jones said. “But they are still coming in. All the business and banks in the area have been very helpful.”

Among the hundreds of boxes Friday, Ponchatoula High School donated 52 care packages.

“(Ponchatoula High School) have a solider from their school that they wanted to do,” Jones said. “We fixed them up with stamps so they can send their goods to their soldiers.”

Jones said GRITS will send a majority of the boxes to one or two local soldiers. Once the soldiers receive the boxes, they will distribute them to their fellow comrades.

John Prosser of Ferriday and Charlie Blanton of Natchez, who are both serving overseas, will receive the boxes this year.

Volunteer Ethan Keith, 8, participated Friday night for the first time.

“I had a chance to come this year, so I wanted to help,” Keith said. “I want to thank (soldiers) for keeping us safe.”

Micah Hogan, 9, and Andy Keith, 5, worked together to stamp boxes, just before stacking them by the front desk.

“It’s nice to do this and it shows (soldiers) that we haven’t forgotten about them,” Hogan said. “It gives them food and drinks, which they need.”

Kathy Stevens has worked with GRITS as a volunteer for the last five years, and she is pleased with its progress.

“It’s fantastic to see GRITS grow,” Stevens said. “I’m glad that everybody remembers there are still soldiers serving overseas. I like knowing that the men and women serving know that the folks in Louisiana care.”

Jones said donations can be sent to Operation GRTIS, 107 Carter St., or dropped off at Reed Insurance — donations are tax deductible.