By Jerome Tharaud
The grandmother of a Havre woman serving on the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf plans to mobilize volunteers in Havre to send a package of baked goods, snack foods and a letter from a local student to each of 5,617 people on the aircraft carrier.
On Monday night Havre resident Jane Smith, 61, asked the Havre City Council to adopt the USS Abraham Lincoln. Smith's granddaughter - Jody Corner, 19 - is one of the sailors on board.
"Anybody who's been in the service knows what this means to service personnel," Smith said today. "I want as many people involved as possible."
If area residents make donations of time to help bake, in-kind donations of items like boxes and bags, and give money to help buy tape and ship the boxes, the project would be very cheap, she said.
"I'm not asking the city for one penny," she told the council.
"I as mayor will help in any way I can," Havre Mayor Bob Rice told Smith. Rice, a Navy veteran, said he would issue a proclamation of Havre's adoption of the USS Abraham Lincoln at the next council meeting on March 17, and that he would allow Smith to use a small room in the basement of City Hall as a holding station for the packages.
Smith estimated the effort would require at least 20,000 cookies. Chocolate chip cookies will be eschewed in favor of softer cookies, Smith said, because chocolate chip cookies are reduced to crumbs by the time they travel to the Persian Gulf.
Smith's goal is to prepare and send the packages within three weeks. She said she is working with the mayor to arrange for the boxes to be shipped for free from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls.
"Jody's got a pretty good support network at home, but a lot of people don't," Smith said. "It's the goodies from home that really make a difference."
The packages would also include a flier with information about Havre, and a map of Montana. "I think anybody that gets a package from Havre, Montana, is going to remember where Havre is," Smith said.
Smith said that there could be security concerns about sending a large volume of packages to service people after 9/11.
Sue Nieuwenhuyse, chair of the Armed Forces Emergency Services program for the Bear's Paw District of the American Red Cross, said a Red Cross program started last fall to send packages to troops within the United States was temporarily shut down last year over security concerns because of the volume of the response. She said the program has since resumed, but with certain safety restrictions on packaging and shipping.
"My concern was only what we have gone through as Red Cross," but a private project like Smith's might not run into the same problem, Nieuwenhuyse said. She said she supports Smith's effort.
Smith said she should have contact people for each of the six teams that will assemble different components of the packages by next week.