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All Packed Up and No Way To Go

On Saturday, Oct. 28, Volunteer Fairfax hosted the 12th annual VolunteerFest, a region-wide program held on "National Make a Difference Day." Millions of people volunteered in communities across the country, and more than 700 volunteers contributed their time and energy for Fairfax County's Volunteerfest.

In Great Falls, volunteers sorted, organized and packed small care packages to be sent by the Neighbors International Foundation to soldiers and sailors stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neighbors International, a non-profit community e-mail network, continually collects care package item donations at its offices in Great Falls. The organization puts together packages of beef jerky, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, batteries, coffee, magazines, personal letters and much more, and then ships them to U.S. troops as it can.

In an e-mail to the entire Neighbors network, Neighbors International president and founder Sharon Rainey expressed her gratitude to the VolunteerFest participants who spent the day sorting, packing, taping and labeling.

"In four hours' time, and with so many generous donations, Neighbors International Foundation will be sending out 119 care packages to our soldiers and sailors in Iraq and Afghanistan," wrote Rainey. "119 boxes, one person at a time ... tremendous."

The only damper on the situation is that Rainey just found out that her shipping funds have dried up, and currently has no money to actually mail the packages. Since VolunteerFest, Neighbors has now accumulated over 200 boxes of care packages, and expects to get at least 400 more between now and the end of the year. An anonymous contributor has offered to match every donation that comes in for the mailing of the packages.

"Now is a great time to make end-of-the-year donations," said Rainey.