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Making a soldier's day
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If you've found yourself at a loss of what to do to support the troops beyond sporting a yellow ribbon magnet, Operation Sandbox and the ladies of the American Legion Auxiliary want you to come out to a county-wide drive at the Covington Square on June 30 to donate items to send to the troops.

The Covington Unit 32 of the American Legion Auxiliary will be on site from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Covington Square along with Operation Sandbox and members of the Georgia National Guard, Bravo Company, First Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, to collect items for care packages that will be sent to the Georgia National Guard and other military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Operation Sandbox started as a one-time project by Virginia Pearson and her daughter Julie Pearson-Kines to send Christmas stockings to Julie's husband and his unit in the Marines and quickly morphed into a much larger operation as word spread and more people wanted to help. Operation Sandbox has sent more than 40,000 care packages and 35,000 cards to date.

Unit 32 of the Auxiliary had been involved with Operation Sandbox for some time but had never organized such a large collection effort.

"This is new for us, to sponsor something county-wide," said Marcia Floyd, an Auxiliary member involved in organizing the drive. "Of all the organizations, we need to be the ones to do it."

The mission of the Auxiliary, which was formed nationally in 1918 and founded in Newton County in 1948, is to support veterans and the activities of the American Legion, which looks after the interests of veterans who have served during wartime.

With such a background, the individual ladies of the Auxiliary are no strangers to supporting troops during wartime.

Floyd remembers sending care packages to her husband during the Vietnam War.

"We used to send boxes all the time," she said. "We used to send soap."

 Now, the most requested Operation Sandbox items range from breath mints to toilet paper to single serving drink mixes.

DVDs, magazines and entertainment items are also appreciated to help pass the downtime.

"They just appreciate anything," said Virginia Pearson. "They appreciate the cards and letters that people write; most of all, just to know that people care about them."