Chris McKinnon, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY – Members of The Hugs Project are in their final weeks before shipping thousand of care packages to military men and women stationed outside the United States, but there is one last hurdle for them to jump. The cost of shipping the 4,500 boxes is $62,000.
The Hugs Project is up for a $10,000 grant through AARP. Karen Stark, the organizer of The Hugs Project, said that money would go a long way.
"$10,000 would be a huge win for us. That would pay a sixth of that postage bill," said Stark. "We need them to vote every single day if we're going to win."
Stark's group has already collected $5,000 from the first round of the contest but now it all comes down to a nation-wide vote.
The organization is now just one of seven up for the big award through AARP. They were picked out of 1,800. Stark explained the money would make sure thousands of troops get a bit of home during the holidays and an essential piece of clothing.
"Every year the biggest need is socks," said Stark. "When you see young men and women carrying almost everything they own on their back, when they're sleeping in holes, when they don't have even a bucket of water and some soap to wash their socks out in, you understand how real the need is for a clean pair of socks."
There is also a need for other items like toothbrushes and toothpaste, gum, beef jerky, all things many of us take for granted. Stark said those items are appreciated even though many who donate to hear about it.
"One young man wrote back in the middle of summer and said, ‘we feel your love and it's like a clean glass of cold water,'" recalled Stark. "Another said when she got our box she just sat down and cried and she said, ‘I needed to hear from someone today.'"
The Hugs Project is located inside the Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City. They accept donations there and groups can sign up to help pack up the care packages.