PENDLETON - Operation Care Package is now an independent nonprofit organization.

The Main Street Cowboys have discontinued their sponsorship, but many individuals and businesses continue to support the project to send care packages to the servicemen and women stationed in Iraq, where shopping privileges are limited to what is in a traveling "store."

Friday OCP shipped 18 packages priority mail that are expected to arrive in approximately two weeks. Packages sent surface mail can take as long as two months to arrive for the troops.

"Each individual care package costs approximately $30 to send," said Sharolyn Gemmell, organization secretary. "Everything is sent priority mail so that it will arrive in a timely fashion."

Cash donations for postage or shopping can be sent to Operation Care Package, P.O. Box 175, Pendleton, OR 97801. Gemmell and Gerald Rusher, director of Operation Care Package, shop carefully to get the most value for the money when purchasing items for care packages.

Operation Care Package targets anyone serving in Iraq who is a resident or former resident of this area or who has ties to the area, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle who lives in the area.

Items needed for care packages include white socks, all kinds of snacks, sun glasses, individual packets of cocoa, flashlights and batteries, individually wrapped wet wipes, small containers of shampoos and lotions, etc.

Among the "thank yous" OCP has received, a letter from Blake said, "It has been a real treat to share the items with fellow soldiers as a lot of items are hard to come by while we are in country ... it enriches us with hope and keeps alive the memories of what we will be coming home to."

Staff Sgt. LJR, USMC, said in his e-mail: "Thank you for the care package. ... I shared it with my guys and it made their day as well. I do have to admit it made me homesick for Pendleton. It also makes me proud to be from a community that is so patriotic."

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