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Family group collecting items for troops in Iraq

Brookhaven has joined with municipalities across the state in amassive effort to supply soldiers of the 155th Brigade Combat Teamdeployed to Iraq with hygiene items and toys.

Although the effort is statewide, items donated in local areaswill be delivered to local troops, said Melissa Tanksley, statefamily programs director for the Mississippi Army NationalGuard.

The local drive is sponsored by the 155th Infantry Battalionfamily readiness groups, businesses and the media.

Drop-off points for items donated to the local 155th InfantryBattalion can be made in Brookhaven at the 155th armory on Highway84 or at Brookhaven Honda, said Toni Alvey, family readiness groupchairperson for Brookhaven.

“We’re challenging civic groups and business offices to puttogether care packages to send the troops,” said Linda Covington,owner of Brookhaven Honda.

Covington said the current drive will last until April 1, but anew drive will begin April 2.

The list of items needed by soldiers includes such mainlyhygiene items, but other items such as Bibles, reading materialsand candy have also been requested.

“It does include small toys for the Iraqi children,” Covingtonsaid.

Most of the troops have access to hygiene items “so they’rereally asking us to send them toys and stuff they can give to thechildren,” Tanksley said.

Troops often pass out individually-wrapped hard candy and othergoodies to the children while on patrol.

Staff Sergeant David Sanders, presently deployed in Iraq withthe 155th, said in letters home that the children love to followthe soldiers in the hopes of receiving candy.

“The kids, five to about 12, think our patrols are justparades,” Sanders wrote. “They follow us around and ask for candyeverywhere we go.”

Kindness shown to their children also helps the soldiers winfriends among the Iraqi citizens, he said. And tips from thecitizens result in many finds of bombs and other weapons beforethey can be used against the troops.

American troops are also visiting hospital children’s wards todeliver goodies and passing out school supplies to the children,Tanksley said.

Cash donations are accepted at the drop-off points, Covingtonsaid. The cash money will be used to assist with shippingcosts.

WZFL 104.9 of McComb is helping to promote local efforts byannouncing additional drop off points as they become available. Thestation is also hosting a remote at Brookhaven Honda from 2-5 p.m.April 1 to finish this drive.

“We hope to have a military vehicle here during the remote toremind people this drive is ending that day,” Covington said.

She said the vehicle would be provided by Eric Boyd.