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Putnam Efforts See 500 Comfort Packages Shipped to Soldiers Overseas

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell presents United For The Troops co-founder Jim Rathschmidt a check from the donations collected through the Defend the Holidays campaign.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell presents United For The Troops co-founder Jim Rathschmidt a check from the donations collected through the Defend the Holidays campaign. Photo Credit: Contributed

PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. -- Five hundred comfort packages to men and women serving overseas in the U.S. Armed Forces will be shipped through Mahopac-based organization United For The Troops.

The package shipment is part of Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell's Defend The Holidays program.

“During the season of giving, it was important to remember that our greatest gift is that of freedom,” said Odell. “I launched the Defend the Holiday program, a joint effort with United For The Troops and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, to supply comfort packages to those serving overseas in the U.S. Armed Forces.”

United For The Troops is a 501-c-3 that sends care packages to troops serving overseas. It was started by Mahopac residents Jim and Pat Rathschmidt. The couple along with their friends and neighbors launched the organization in 2007 when Rathschmidt’s son, Luke, was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Following numerous conversations with service men and women, the group learned that while the military provides soldiers with the essentials for day to-day life, many of them miss the extra amenities that they enjoy while at home, according to a press release.

The organization’s purpose is to make the soldiers’ lives a little better while serving overseas by sending items such as cookies, DVDs, CDs, snacks and t-shirts.

“While all of our comfort packages are made up of donated items, it costs us about $15 to ship a care package overseas,” said Jim Rathschmidt. “Through the great efforts of MaryEllen Odell and the Putnam County Sheriff Department, we will be able to pay the shipping for 500 gift boxes being sent to our men and women serving our country overseas."

While many of the county employees contributed toward the giving campaign, one person in particular went the extra mile. Putnam County Sheriff Deputy Corinne Pitt, who is a school resource officer at Putnam Valley High School, collected donations totaling $350 from the school staff to support the Defend the Holidays initiative.

“It was such a pleasant surprise to have Deputy Pitt come to my office to present us the money she had collected from the generous families from Putnam Valley High School,” said Odell.

In addition to the donations received from the county employees, county seniors and the residents of Putnam County, the campaign received $610 from the N.Y.C Firefighters Hudson Valley East and $500 from the Putnam County PBA.

United For The Troops has sent more than 16,000 comfort packages to the troops since its inception, the release said.

To learn more about volunteering or making donations to United For The Troops, visit its website at www.unitedforthetroops.com.

Additionally, United For The Troops recently launched Operation Cupid in recognition of Valentine's Day next month and is currently collecting cards, treats and other items to send to troops deployed overseas. Learn more at the website.

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