Giving Back: Texas Tribute
Giving Back: Texas Tribute
When Terri Romere, ABR®, GRI®, a salesperson with Keller Williams Realty in Round Rock, Texas, learned that many of her neighbors were being deployed in August 2004 to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom, she mobilized her own platoon of troops to serve the soldiers. In the 18 months that followed the largest call-up of the Texas Army National Guard since World War II, she and her husband, Bill, collected and shipped thousands of phone cards, toiletries, and other items donated by Round Rock families, schools, and places of worship to make life easier for military personnel in the combat zone. The effort ended when the brigade returned home.
What was your mission?
When I heard that people in our area were going to be leaving their families and their jobs to serve their country—first I cried, and then I resolved to do something about it. The result was Serve Our Soldiers. My husband and I wanted to do what we could to help get items to the soldiers—things like batteries for music players, books, candy, sports equipment, and phone cards—that the military doesn’t provide.
How did you get the project moving?
I talked to friends and clients for ideas. One of them was to put up a Web site, which we did. Another good idea was to focus on one of the National Guard’s missions in Iraq, which was to help build schools. So we decided to round up as many school supplies as we could and send them to the soldiers. I called churches and asked if I could talk to their congregations; the response was overwhelming.
How did you know what the soldiers needed?
I contacted the 56th Brigade commander, Col. James (Red) Brown, and he assigned an officer to work closely with us.
What did you do with the goods once they started coming in?
We collected them in a climate-controlled storage facility. We collected so many items they filled three big shipping containers. There was one period in which we were shipping up to 300 70-pound boxes a month. The hardest and most expensive part was shipping. Eventually we got smart and told people that, along with their donated items, they needed to write a check to the U.S. Postal Service to cover the cost.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to start a project like yours?
Start by contacting the military unit you’d like to help. Your contact will have specifics on what to send and where. You may also want to qualify your project as a nonprofit organization for tax purposes.
What’s been the result of Serve Our Soldiers?
We heard from so many soldiers that receiving something as simple as a paperback novel or a clean pair of socks made their day. Many of them also told us that the best part was knowing people back home hadn’t forgotten them.
The military has discontinued its “Any Service Member Mail” program. If you know a soldier serving overseas, send packages directly to the person with enough to share. Otherwise, contact your local base and explain your interest in providing goods to their soldiers. Depending on security levels, officers at individual bases may accept or decline offers.
The U.S. Postal Service will ship a 10-pound package from the United States to the Military Post Office serving Iraq for $11.60. To obtain address information and a quote for shipping a parcel from any U.S. ZIP code to a specific soldier’s Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office ZIP code, go to http://hqdainet.army.mil/mpsa/main.htm.