USO Sends Christmas Trees to Troops

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Christmas is starting a little bit early in North Canton this year.

The USO of Northern Ohio started celebrating in May, gearing up to send holiday care packages to troops overseas.

"Our inventory is way down," said Jeannie Soley, program manager of the USO. "There used to be a time where you could not look across the room."

The center serves all branches of the military in the top 29 counties of Ohio.

This holiday, it's sending 2,000 trees to troops around the world.

"Different people in the community have decorated," said volunteer Sandy Howell. "They're creative. They're beautiful. We check them to see if they need a little bit more decorations on them."

In each care package are four miniature Christmas trees and an assortment of goodies, like Girl Scout cookies, magazines, ball caps, homemade cards, scarves and popcorn.

Unfortunately, for troops that remain in Iraq this holiday, Soley said they will not receive any of these treats.

"With closing up Iraq, the Iraq addresses have already been closed," she said. "But they will all be home relatively soon, and that's the good thing. That's the most important thing is to get them home."

Soley said these holiday gifts are a small part of the USO's efforts.

The center sends about 500 care packages to troops each month.

Yet, there is one item just about every soldier wants the most.

"Slim Jims. Slim Jims are the staple of our troops," Soley said.

The USO also assists veterans and new military families.

Howell said the northeast Ohio community has been overwhelmingly supportive.

She just hopes her contribution will help make troops feel at home while they're away from home.

"We've got men and women over there that are risking their lives daily for us," Howell said, "and I think this is the least we can do to see that they have a Christmas tree for Christmas."

With thousands of troops returning home from Iraq, Fox 8 wants to recognize the local men and women who have served.

Reporter Annette Lawless will help share the story of our young soldiers, veterans, their families, the homecomings and resources throughout the community.

Fox 8 is honored to recognize the military hero in your life.

You can e-mail your story to annette.lawless@fox8.com.