By Polly Keary, Editor
In 2010, Monroe resident Lisa Dobbin’s son was serving in Afghanistan. She organized a package drive for soldiers abroad that year, but in the subsequent years decided to focus on candy, specifically, as a way to capture some of the immense amount of excessive candy flooding the nation this time of year and redirecting it to soldiers for whom treats from home were in short supply.
She reasoned that it was a good learning experience for kids, to know about how people’s lives are different in other countries and how some people don’t get to have a fun Halloween and special treats that time of year. It also captured some of the huge amount of candy thrown out each year.
And, she thought, it would promote awareness of the fact that, while lots of people live ordinary lives at home, there are tens of thousands of uniformed soldiers serving very far away under some grueling conditions.
Most of all, it was a way to provide those soldiers with evidence that the folks at home were thinking of them, and cared.
It began as a very local effort, but it caught the attention of regional media, and was features on several popular Seattle-area redo programs, as well as appearing in several local newspapers, including the Monroe Monitor.
Other people got involved, and the program mushroomed in size. Dentists offered to buy candy back form kids and funneled the candy to Treats for Troops, as Dobbin’s campaign was called. Businesses got their employees to bring candy from home. Teachers collected Halloween candy from their students, as well as working with kids to create cards and letters to include with the treats.
Radio shows and other media told the community about drop-off points from Marysville to Puyallup, and, according to Dobbins, the response was overwhelming.
People even sent treats from as far away as Florida, West Virginia and Michigan.
“We live in an amazing community of very kind hearted people that are willing to help,” she said. “This was a very simple idea and with a little networking it quickly became a big adventure.”
This year, Dobbin and the Treats for Troops volunteers are planning to collect candy until Nov. 15. And they are also looking for people who know of soldiers who could use a pick-me-up for themselves and their comrades.
There are several ways to help.
The most pressing need is for money to send the boxes. It costs $14.85 for each large flat-rate box to go to military posts abroad. In previous years, the Dobbin family shipped the packages at their own expenses, but last year they sent 2,000 pounds of treats in 125 boxes, at an expense of more than $1,800.
If you like, you can pick up some pre-paid labels from the Post Office and make a gift of them to Treats for Troops.
Write letters! Candy lasts as long as it takes to eat it, but letters from home, cards from kids, and posters of thanks get taped to the walls of military installations and stay up for a long time, delivering a message of support and gratitude.
And without the names and addresses of soldiers, Treats for Troops has nowhere to send all that candy. If you know of a soldier who might appreciate a gift form home, let the organization know.
You can also help spread the word; there is a flyer on the group’s website, as well as a PayPal button to help out with mailing expenses, if you so choose.
Lastly, save your candy. And if you know you are going to send whatever candy you don’t give out at your house, do be aware that many soldiers are serving in regions of extreme heat. Candy that melts often does. That’s not to say it’s no good; this editor was fortunate enough to visit troops in several very hot Middle East spots last year and saw soldiers cheerfully hacking off clumps of fused M&Ms from a one-pound bag and stirring badly crumbled potato chips right into the dip and eating the concoction with a spoon. Soldiers are resourceful.
Take your candy, postage funds, cards and letters to Sweet Indulgence, the candy store right next to Ben Franklin at 19555 US 2 in Monroe Tuesday, Oct. 15 through Friday, Nov. 15.
To see how you can help, and for a list of other area drop off points, visit www.treatsforourtroops.org.