Thursday, 30 May 2024

Craven has a heart for frontline soldiers

LAKE COUNTY Ginny Craven is passionate about serving her community. She worked in law enforcement until she was compelled to retire on disability from an injury suffered on duty. She still misses the work.

Her passion carries over to a deep respect for the military. Although she never joined any branch of the military, her family has a tradition of military service. Her paternal grandfather, father and brother all served in the Army.

She is assertive enough about it to tell young drunk cowboys to shut up during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at an event. She is daunting enough that they not only complied; they apologized.

So what does a young involuntary retiree of her bent do?

She researches the needs of our frontline troops in Iraq, identifies actual Marines or soldiers in need, and mails them the small items not covered by the military supply system. She has been doing this for almost four years for longer than the duration of World War II shopping thriftily, spending her own money for goods, packing and shipping.

Ginny began her project as a means of supporting two fellow members of the Lake County law enforcement community. Probation Officer Kyle Molencupp and Deputy Don McPherson were in the reserves. When they were recalled in March 2003, Ginny and some of her coworkers began sending them packages. Although Molencupp and McPherson have finished their tour of duty, Ginny Craven soldiers on.

Her project has burgeoned since then. She does considerable Internet research to guarantee that her contributions are going to combat troops, and that she's sending useful goods. She shops sales, buys overstock, stretches her money. And it mostly has been her personal funds.

She has had some minor donations.

The staff of Mendo-Lake Urology in Ukiah passed the hat, took the results and shopped for her.

Individual members of Chapter 951 of Vietnam Veterans of America have contributed; its Board of Directors cut a $100 check from its treasury.

Some other citizens have chipped in, such as Michael Kirch from Lucerne and Nancy Rhoades from Kelseyville.

However, the joking reality of Ginny's finances is Ginny is a Section 100+ percent charity; she adds the contributions to her own personal donation and spends it all on the troops. There aren't many nonprofits that run on negative overhead costs.

Besides money, Ginny can also use an assortment of goodies.

EJ's Video in Kelseyville contributed a VCR for the troops to use whenever they can get a break from combat duty. She could use VHS tapes to accompany it. If you're upgrading to DVDs, here's an excellent use for your old tapes. For that matter, the troops can appreciate DVDs and CDs for those down times between missions. Playing cards, games, magazines, books, stationery sets, jigsaw puzzles and puzzle books, help quell the hours of boredom that intersperses these troops' moments of tension and terror.

Ginny's G. I. Shopping List is replete with small, light items easily carried in a trooper's pack or pocket. Given the weight of military rucksacks, any item must be useful and light. Food should be nutritious, delicious, not easily spoilable, individually snack-packaged, and can contain no pork. Hygiene items should be practical, and they should be tightly sealed.

If you are wary of these two categories mixing flavors in your supermarket basket, imagine what they'll do to each other traveling overseas. In other words, they do not play well together and should be kept strictly separated when shipped.

The boredom of eating the issued meals ready to eat (MREs) can be relieved by jerky, Slim Jims, nuts, dried fruits, trail mix, gorp, hard candy, hard mints, M&Ms, Skittles, cookies, Pop Tarts, energy and/or protein bars. Also popular: packeted drinks such as cocoa, cider, tea, coffee or sweetener. Dehydrated soup mixes, oatmeal, popcorn, and Top Ramen or similar dried noodles are also hits.

Basically, think backpacking food, and think creative. My personal recommended added commodity would be those little one or two ounce bottles of hot sauce to pep up those MREs.

Personal comfort items might seem silly and frivolous unless you've talked to a combat vet who reminisces about how he had so little opportunity to wash that his cammies and boots rotted off him as he sprouted boils. When you hear that, you realize we're talking necessity here, not fripperies.

Ginny's G. I. List includes razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, eye wash, hair care products, sunscreen and lip balm. Also precious are foot powder, body powder, Odor Eater insoles, lotion, feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, hand sanitizers and soap (especially those tiny bars from motels).

And speaking of clothing and such: the troops can use tan T-shirts, black long-sleeved T-shirts, black gloves, ski caps, and socks in black, green or white.

In the miscellaneous category: small pillows, pillow cases, sheets, batteries, air fresheners, phone cards and disposable cameras.

The final desired item is the most surprising. In this magic age of e-mail, chat rooms, podcasts, and instant messaging, it is the lowest-tech treasure imaginable. A piece of paper with some words written upon it. A letter, a card, a note, a drawing. Mail from the home front. Letters like those written by Christ's Love Among Youth at Community Baptist Church in Nice, forwarded by Ginny, and appreciated by the troops. Ginny is presently collecting mail for the troops for a Valentine's Day surprise.

I close this article by admitting I did not truly write it. I transcribed it. I transcribed this article in the belief that our service people are the flesh of our community, and we owe it to them to bleed a little time, money, effort, trouble.

Ginny Craven inspired it with her humbling perseverance. The Web site supplied much more information than I can set down here. Anyone who will read and understand all of this fine Web site can duplicate Ginny's efforts. Realize, however, that Ginny's G. I. List has evolved past the Web site.

This matter of citizens supporting our troops is not some big cumbersome bureaucracy, nor does it have anything to do with our beliefs and feelings about the ongoing war. It is a benevolent grassroots movement to aid our siblings, kinfolk, neighbors. If you can't or won't help Ginny, then help your troops on your own. You'll do good, and you'll feel better afterwards.

Note: Chapter 951of Vietnam Veterans of America will accept monetary donations for Ginny at P.O. Box 1313, Lakeport, CA 95453. Please note that donation is for Ginny, and whether you wish a receipt for tax purposes. Goods donated can be received by a member of VVA, Hugh Mackey, at his business, Mackey Tires and Spas, at 2101 S. Main St., Lakeport. Please call him first at 707-263-0277 to arrange your drop off. Ginny Craven may be reached at 707-349-2838.


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