Democrats club assists effort to cheer troops
Cypress-Tomball Democrats club's message to American troops overseas is exactly its message to Democrats back home.
"We want our troops to know we support them and they are not alone," said Olga Moya, club president. "That's also our mantra for our club. At the end of every meeting we say, 'You are not alone,' because it can feel like you are the only Democrat out here."
The club, which began about a year ago and has 40 members, recently volunteered with Operation Interdependence to support American soldiers deployed abroad.
Operation Interdependence sends care packages to troops. The nonprofit organization has 12 chapters nationwide, the largest being in Houston, said Jerry Harmon, Operation Interdependence manager for Texas and Oklahoma. Harmon, who lives in Houston, said that two weeks ago she received 23 tons in donations, the largest ever, through a partnership with H-E-B and IBC Bank. Harmon relies on volunteers such as the Cypress-Tomball Democrats to package and mail the items.
The Houston Operation Interdependence chapter is growing phenomenally, Harmon said.
"In some ways, it's scary because we need more help," she said. "And in some ways, it's euphoric."
Harmon said that last year H-E-B and IBC Bank donated 18 tons of donations for the project and that the year before they gave 9 tons. The number of volunteers is also growing, she said. Harmon's Houston chapter is operated from two buildings in Spring that were donated by commercial real estate companies Quest and Inland American Retail Management. But volunteers are coming from all over, including Pearland, Katy and Cypress.
What's happening is the word is spreading all over Houston, she said.
"People are looking for a way to say thank you to our troops," she added.
Harmon said she thinks that because of Houston's close proximity to the military base at Fort Hood, a higher concentration of families here have a loved one serving overseas.
Moya said that's why the Cypress-Tomball Democrats were drawn to Operation Interdependence as one of their four annual volunteer projects.
Club member Susan Woodyard said she's known several people who have served in the military and been deployed to the Middle East, including her brother and niece.
"It seems like whoever you speak to has someone over there (in the Middle East) or they know someone who is about to go there," she said. "We've all been touched by it somehow."
Woodyard said she enjoyed the entire process of volunteering at Operation Interdependence. She sorted items for veterans, placed them in a bag and then boxed the bags to be shipped.
Operation Interdependence does not send individual veterans a package; it sends care packages to entire units.
"It felt good knowing no one would be left out at mail call," Woodyard said.
Moya said the most moving part of the process was writing personal letters of gratitude to soldiers. Operation Interdependence also includes a letter in each soldier's goody bag.
"You know that a service man or woman was actually going to read your note," Moya said.
"It was so wonderful to tell them thank you for their commitment and service to our country."
Harmon said club members were a great help.
"They were a quick-study and immediately got to work," Harmon said. "Groups like these are essential to us because we rely strictly on volunteers."
Moya said the experience reminded her and other volunteers that families and troops are still sacrificing for their country.
"This really brought it up front and center and made it personal in our lives."
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