As a military wife, Cathy Portock knows how difficult it is to have a loved one away for the holidays.
Her husband, Jim, is a career United States Coast Guards member based at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City. And although it has been years since he was separated from his family at this time of year, she still remembers how it felt.
"We feel lucky that he hasn't really had to go away for long stretches of time, and especially at this time of year," said the 44-year-old mother of three. "But there are many military personnel who are away from their homes, and they should not be forgotten."
Portock, an agent at Smithville All Pro Realtors, on the corner of Route 9 and Moss Mill Road in Galloway Township, is coordinating this year's Give 2 the Troops donation drive for military members both home and abroad.
It is the fourth straight year that Smithville All Pro Realtors is supporting the effort. The office not only serves as the donation center, but foots the bill for shipping packages to a military base.
"We enjoy doing this," said Joy Dinger, 52, owner of Smithville All Pro Realtors and a local resident. "It's such a small token to show our support for our troops. We do this because we have the advantage of being home and having our families around us for the holidays and they don't."
The donation box has been set up in the office lobby since the first week of November to collect items for the troops. With a deadline of Dec. 9, the push is on to get as many donations as possible.
"I know people have a lot on their minds right now, and it's hard to remember that we still have troops serving far from home," Portock said.
She said military members really appreciate receiving packages and knowing they are remembered.
Many deployed military members have sent letters of thanks to the office saying how touched they were after receiving a package "from home."
Portock said this year's effort has been aided by a cookie drive from the Coast Guard wives. And there has been a collection of drawings and letters of support to troops from school children that will be sent in the packages, she said.
While Portock feels a special affinity with military families, she said the entire office staff works to support the annual drive.
Lori Kurtz, a longtime Smithville resident, is the office administrator and helps coordinate the annual support the troops drive. She said the community response has been very generous.
"All our agents not only donate items, but help spread the word so we can provide items for as many troop members as we can," said Kurtz. "This is something we really stand behind, and we are happy to do it."
The staff at Smithville All Pro Realtors also supports the local community by annually donating a portion of their commission to charity, which the company matches.
To donate items to send to the troops, the public is invited to drop off items during business hours at 1 N. New York Road, across from the CVS store in Historic Smithville.
Contact Lucia C. Drake:
How to help
What: Give 2 The Troops care package
Where: Smithville All Pro Realtors, 1 N. New York Road, Suite D, Galloway Township
Deadline: Dec. 9
Call: 609-652-9944 or give2thetroops.org for full list of preferred items
Items needed: Toiletries: baby wipes (travel size), liquid hand sanitizer (travel size), body wash, liquid soap, facial cleanser, shampoo/conditioner (travel size), hair gel (for female troops to pull hair back), combs/brushes, bobby pins, eye drops, nasal spray, deodorant (travel size), cotton swabs, lip balm, foot powder (travel size), washcloths, sunblock, bug spray, mouthwash (travel size), toothpaste/toothbrushes, multi-vitamins, cough drops, shoe insole cushions
Entertainment and Sports: AA, AAA, C batteries, portable CD players/head phones, pens and mechanical pencils, stationery, day planners, crossword puzzles, playing cards, poker chips, dice, Nerf footballs, Frisbees / Hackey sacks, 35 mm disposable cameras
Domestics: pillow cases, towels, socks, generic sunglasses, alarm clocks, fly swatters, fly paper
K-9 items: dry dog food, latex toys, brushes