Iowa and Nebraska volunteers send cookies to US armed forces

Ellen Fritz helps pack care packages for U.S. military members serving overseas. The group in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is scrambling to package and mail at least 30,000 cookies abroad to U.S. service members in an annual effort aimed at improving morale during the holidays for those serving overseas. 

Julia Nagy, Omaha World-Herald

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Volunteers from Iowa and Nebraska are rushing to send 30,000 cookies overseas to deployed U.S. service members for the holiday season.

The group, Iowa Cookie Crumbs, usually sends about 7,000 cookies to troops every month. But members are increasing their efforts this month to send far more cookies for the holidays.

The volunteers bake, package and mail cookies to boost the morale of those deployed. The group relies on donations to cover costs, including postage fees that topped $20,000 last year.

"Any time you have a Marine receive mail, it lifts spirits tenfold, especially when you haven't got anything in a while," said Mike Jacober, a Marine veteran who received a package from the Cookie Crumbs while stationed in Iraq in 2007. "Having that connection back home means a lot."

Teams of 180 bakers will be bringing cookies to packaging events this month, compared with the teams of 60 bakers who contribute from January to October.

Volunteers also send other supplies, including helmet liners, socks, bug spray, cough drops, beef jerky, holiday cards and a pocket-size folded flag.

Soldiers "can't just go down to the corner and get a ChapStick or get some more shaving gear, so we're providing them with things they don't have access to," said Nick Nicotero, a Vietnam veteran and volunteer.

The group relies on donations from the community in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska to cover delivery and baking costs. One box of cookies costs about $17 to mail.

Deann Over, 70, has baked with the Iowa Cookie Crumbs since the group first started. She said the support volunteers receive is outstanding.

"It just goes to show that the Midwest culture of helping others is certainly shown in this project," Over said.

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