NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - If you have extra Halloween candy you don't want, consider donating it to the North Platte based non-profit Operation Christmas Card.
Organizer Char Merrill-Swalberg says candy is one of the items placed in the care packages sent overseas and throughout the nation to military personnel who will not be able to make it home for the holidays.
Candy, snacks, hygiene products, socks, cards, dice and dominoes are just some of the items that are placed into the flat rate boxes supplied by the United States Postal Service. The packaging may be free, but the contents are not, and neither is the postage. In fact, postage for the care packages being requested has a price tag of $9,400.
Throughout the first week of November, Swalberg will be talking to North Platte businesses about setting up drop off sites at their locations.
It costs $18.45 for one care package. Operation Christmas Card has an account set up at the North Platte locations of Nebraskaland Bank and monetary donations for supplies and postage can be left there or mailed to Char Merrill-Swalberg at 920 West 3rd, North Platte, NE 69101.
Swalberg says there is "never a shortage of requests," but she needs help. The organization consists of Swalberg and four board members who reside in Omaha, and Swalberg's family. It's at their home where the majority of the care packages are bundled. Swalberg collects items for the packages all year.
She said, "If anyone wants more information, wants to help, or wants someone to pick up a donation - give me a call." Her number is 308-520-9516.
Swalberg hopes to start sending the care packages in November, around Thanksgiving. She says they must be sent early to mid November to make sure they arrive to their locations prior to Christmas. She gets the names of soldiers from moms, from other soldiers who want their comrades to get something at Christmas time, and from many other sources.
The original idea came when her son was in the military. She sent him care packages, and eventually he asked if she could please send more for "some of the guys who never get anything."
And Swalberg's organization reached a point when she would have had to either scale back or go big. So she got her non-profit status, she declared board members, and let her lists of those needing car packages grow. She said the board members are helping to arrange for donations in Omaha. She said last November (2018) Bill Summers helped. She said the Eagles have offered up their meeting room for more space, and Community Connection and Mentoring put together 25 boxes, and supplied the items that went into the boxes.
Swalberg says any help she can get, she appreciates. "I get my family to help me package care packages." But she adds that any help at all - from candy or other items on the list, to packing, to monetary donations - is greatly appreciated by her, the board members, and of course - the soldiers.
Many people have reached out to Swalberg from across the country looking to set up an Operation Christmas Card groups in their own area.