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Wednesday, April 16 2014 @ 09:32 PM MST

Current Penpal Information

This policy became effective June 1, 2006, and will remain in effect going forward. We have changed the way our penpal program operates. Please read and follow the directions listed below to be sure your letters get to the troops! All letters are processed through our office only.

Why are we doing this? Simple. We want to ensure that our troops are getting letters of support and that their safety and security are assured. That is our number one priority and will never change.

There are those who seem to ignore the rules about treating your penpals as if they are your brother or sister. Lots of these troops are married and are NOT looking for love, just a little honest support and compassion. Photos of you and your family are great. Bedroom type photos are prohibited by our rules and just plain show poor taste! We are committed to making sure that all those who sign up with us get mail as often as possible. All letters are screened for content. You may think this sounds harsh, but as I said before the safety and well-being of the troops are our main concern. Our program only operates to show our respect and support for those who are making great sacrifices for our country. We will not jeopardize that for the sake of a few people who refuse to follow the rules.

The program rules are as follows:

All letters and cards to the troops should be written and placed in a plain, unaddressed, unsealed envelope. You may put your return address on the envelope. You may also include photos, phone cards or mementos if you like but all pictures must follow the lines of good taste. Do not write anything in the address section of the envelope.

If a stamp is on the envelope we will add a mailing label and send it directly to one of our troops. If no stamps are on the envelope it will be included in one of our care packages. Regular first class stamps are all that is needed for mailing unless the envelope is more than 1 ounce. Then additional postage is required.

Just a reminder: Do NOT seal the envelope.

Pack all your letters together in another envelope and mail them to us at the address listed below. Every letter you write goes to a different military member who has authorized penpals. Remember that not all of our troops are in Iraq. We have soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kosovo and several other places around the world. All of the letters and cards will be mailed as long as the guidelines are followed.

Please mail all your letters and cards to:

Keystone Soldiers
PO Box 152
Fleetwood, Pa 19522-0152

Thanks in advance for your consideration and cooperation.

If you receive a letter back from one of our troops you are free to then communicate directly. You may send care packages through Keystone or on your own. Care packages through Keystone Soldiers are still only $20.00 (cheaper than you can do yourself!) and are packed in a box 12x12x8 with a card listing the sponsor's name (and address if you like). They contain an assortment of basic toiletries, snacks, stationary items and phone cards when we have them. We have been able to maintain the price thanks to many kind donors and businesses that send us some of the things we include. Most of the price is to cover the postage that runs from $10.00 to 20.00 per package. We currently are shipping care packages several days a week! You can sponsor a care package by using the Paypal link in the right column or mailing a check or money order to us at the address listed above.

I would also like to address another question we get on a regular basis. Why don't we give out email penpals or include their email address with their information? The answer is simple. We only give out their email address when we are asked to do so. Their computer time, in most cases, is very limited and we feel that email is for communication with their families. If their email is filled up with mail, jokes and forwards from their penpals then the email from their families may not get through. The idea of penpals is so that they have mail during mail call. No one should have to walk away from mail call empty handed. If you get a reply and they include their email address please keep in mind the limited size of their mailbox. Write to them but don't send junk emails unless they ask for it.

I hope that you all understand the changes to our program and why they have become necessary. I know for those who want to offer true support they will not pose a problem.

Thanks for your continued support for Keystone and for our troops!!

~Lordzmom

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It's that time again!

   Keystone Soldiers is geared up and ready for our 11th annual Stockings for Soldiers campaign.

This will be our 11th Christmas season sending holiday cheer from home to those serving our country all over the world. Our biggest need this year is postage for shipping.  Each stocking costs almost $5.00 to ship. Please help us make sure that none of our troops goes without a holiday smile from home this year. The economic situation has hit us hard the last few years. I know that times are tough and that when you are struggling to put gas in your car and food on the table that one of the items that is not on your mind is giving money away. All I can ask is if you can help us with $5.00 or a package of snacks or socks or other items from the list to put in the stockings you do so. We truly appreciate any help at all and no donation is too big or too small.

  If you have a church group or scout troop or even a sewing club that could help us out with some 16" to 24" stockings it would be a huge blessing. They can be home-made, sewn from felt or purchased. We have had to buy some extras the last couple years and the Dollar Tree stores usually have a great selection for only $1 each. We currently have a couple thousand in stock waiting for the goodies and to be packed and on their way. Over 5,000 troops have already signed up to receive some love from home. We appreciate all of you who have remembered that we have to start early to make sure the stockings get there in plenty of time. Shipping deadline this year is Dec 5th.

   We will be posting more details on Stockings for Soldiers as we get closer to our shipping deadline. Monday Nov 25th will be the delivery of our donations from Blue Ridge Communications offices so we will need help Tuesday 11/26 from 10am to 3pm to get everything sorted and ready to stuff in the stockings. This collection is usually over 2.5 tons so any extra hands are appreciated! We hope to see lots of our old friends during the holiday season!

Thanks for your continued support for Keystone Soldiers and for our troops!

 ~Lordzmom

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Current Care Package List Spring/Summer 2013

Penpals & Package News  This list is current and was updated on MAY 14, 2013. Our packages go to all branches of the military and to locations in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea and any other troops who request support from home. All items are sorted and packed according to the requests we get directly from the troops or their families. Our mailing address is posted at the top of the home page. Please use the street address ONLY for shipping boxes! Please use the Fleetwood post office box for letters, cards and donation checks.
  
   Always needed:
  • Power Bars, trail mix, and healthy snacks.
  • Slim Jims, *Beef or Turkey Jerky and pepperoni sticks.
  • Sunflower Seeds &  all types of nuts.
  • Pretzels in small bags.
  • **Individual snacks like crackers, cookies, cheese/cracker kits. No potato chips please, they crush easily.
  • Drink mix for bottled water. Preferred is Gatorade, Propel, Crystal Light or any energy drink.
  • 5 Hour Energy drinks or similar energy drinks.
  • Tuna, chicken, salmon or beef pouches of meat that are shelf stable. Cans are ok if they have pop tops.
  • Small boxes or cups of cereal & canned or powdered milk.
  • Ramen Noodles and disposable cups or bowls.
  • Individual hot foods like oatmeal, cream of wheat, easy mac, soups, stews and canned pasta meals. POP TOP cans please!
  • Tylenol, aspirin, Dayquil, Nyquil, eye drops, nasal spray, vitamins and protein drink mixes. Small manicure kits & first aid kits.
  • Pocket size notebooks & index cards.
  • Mens and Ladies underwear in sizes Small, Med, Large. Mens XL too. Mens boxers & Tshirts. Ladies briefs or bikinis & Tshirts.
  • Mens and Ladies calf high socks or boot socks in black or white. Cotton or wool preferred.

   Always Appreciated:

  • **New or used game systems like PS3, Wii, or Xbox 360.
  • **Video games and controllers for PS3, Wii and Xbox 360.
  • Small hand-held video games like poker, solitaire, slingo, etc.
  • **Decks of cards, dice or small pocket size games.
  • Small pocket size notebooks, mechanical pencils & markers.
  • 4GB, 8GB or 16GB thumb drives.
  • **DVDs - New or used are fine. Current releases are appreciated.
  • AT&T phone cards which can be purchased at AAFES and shipped to us for distribution.
  • ****Money for shipping costs. Please!            

** = Items most needed or requested by the troops! 

****Monetary donations are needed to help us ship the care packages. This is always our biggest need by far. Shipping costs have increased and it doesn't matter how much "stuff" we have if we don't have money to ship it. We really need to be able to get the packages out every week. There are hundreds of troops who are counting on us to send them some love and cheer from home! We have over 200 requests for assistance since Christmas! Every $15.00 ships 1 box to an individual military member. Every $45.00 ships a large unit box that will cover several of our troops in need.

  We are NOT accepting any books right now. NO aerosol cans please! NO silly string!

**Please note: 1) The U.S. Postal Service regulations do not allow anything in aerosol cans to be shipped.  2) Shipping currently takes about 10-18 days to the combat zones. It takes us about a week to get everything sorted and boxed. Please keep this in mind when you are checking expiration dates on food items. We will not ship expired food items!

You can print this list to share with others or take shopping with you by clicking the link in the article that looks like a printer! You are welcome to print as many copies as you like so please pass them on to others who are interested in supporting our troops.We also have instructions for how to set up a donation collection at the top of our home page. Click here!

 If you have questions please call us or send us an email! We appreciate your support for our troops and for Keystone Soldiers!

 

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Mail Must be Addressed to Specific Servicemembers

Penpals & Package News

****Keystone Note: This is why we are here and this is what we do every day. Please consider making a donation for postage and let us get the most needed and requested items to the troops they will help the most! Thanks! ~Lordzmom****

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2009 - A recent increase in mail addressed to "Any Servicemember" has prompted the Military Postal Service Agency to remind the general public not to send mail or care packages addressed in such a manner.

"Mail to 'Any Servicemember/Any Wounded-Recovering Warrior,' deposited into a collection box and erroneously accepted at a United States Postal Service post office will not be delivered," MPSA officials said in a news release. "This restriction applies to all classes and types of mail."

The Defense Department suspended the "Any Servicemember" and "Operation Dear Abby" programs in 2001 following the terrorist attacks. The policy was adopted as a way to bolster force protection.

"Even though these programs may provide an excellent means of support to deployed personnel and wounded-recovering warriors, they also provide an avenue to introduce hate mail and hazardous substances or materials into the mail system," MPSA officials said in the release.

The Dear Abby program, founded by the newspaper advice columnist, delivered mail to U.S. servicemembers overseas during the holiday season for 25 years. "Any Servicemember" mail grew out of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Since shortly after the start of recent operations in the Middle East, many grassroots organizations have made sure servicemembers know they're remembered. Those interested in writing to servicemembers can visit the Defense Department's Community Relations Web site and click the "Citizen Support" link on the right side of the page to find groups that support troops with letters.

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Local business collects for soldiers overseas

Penpals & Package NewsFrom the Southern Berks News

By Courtney McEachern

We brush our teeth everyday. But what if we didn’t have toothbrushes?

Many soldiers overseas are without essential items, like toothbrushes, and are in dire need of them.

Nancy Doaty and Jennifer Ulrich, employees at Aquabilities in Birdsboro, are collecting essential items for care packages to be sent to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Korea through the operation Keystone Soldiers for the Christmas holiday.

Keystone Soldiers is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 by mother Kyle Lord.

“And is much more than just a group that collects items for the troops. We send care packages of much needed supplies and items that remind our troops of home. We send letters and cards of support to military members serving our country all over the world,” said Lord.

She added that the organization also assists “military families to resources who can help them, send comfort items to the military and veterans hospitals in the states and abroad and “emergency packs” to the field hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Lord started this organization when her son’s unit was being deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002.

“I was looking for a way to aide communication between our soldiers and the families as it was a very uncertain time. As a mother who's son was leaving for a war instead of college I realized that all of the parents and spouses were feeling the same fear I was,” said Lord.

Lord said today Keystone has thousands of troops and families who visit the Web site, requesting packages.

“While we specialize in supporting Pennsylvania soldiers we have never turned away a request for a care package, no matter where the soldier, sailor, marine or airman is from. Our mission will continue until all of our troops are home safely,” said Lord.

To help Pennsylvania soldiers, area residents can drop off items such as ground coffee, peanut butter and jelly, candy canes, sunscreen and insect repellent, shampoo and deodorant, to name a few, for the care packages, at the Aquabilities facilities locations at 320 W. Main Street, Birdsboro and at their Blandon location, 825 Park Rd. [see Web site: www.keystonesoldiers.com for the complete list of items needed].

“My son is a firefighter in California and he asked me to send him Krimpets. Some of the soldiers don’t even have a stick of gum,” said Doaty. The Aquabilities facilities began collecting items on Oct. 1. The community service project will end Nov. 4. “This is the first time, but I am hoping to collect a lot [for the troops],” said Doaty.

Although Doaty and Ulrich are involved with a number of community service projects throughout the year, this is their first time participating in Keystone.

Doaty said she wanted to do something for the troops overseas and searched the internet for organizations that help soldiers. She found Keystone.

Ulrich said that she hopes this project raises awareness that the troops should not be forgotten.

All objects donated will be headed to Leesport, Keystone’s headquarters, where they will be separated and packaged. People can also send cards and letters to troops. Monetary donations are needed to help ship the care packages.

“Our main mission is to make sure that every single soldier knows he has love and support from home,” said Lord.

Where to send donations:

• Cards, letters and monetary donations can be mailed to Keystone Soldiers, PO Box 152, Fleetwood, PA 19522.

• Another donation location is at Keystone Soldier, 5 S. Centre Ave., Schoolside Plaza - Suite A1, Leesport.

For more information visit: www.keystonesoldiers.com/.
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Peanut Butter Recalls

Penpals & Package News

  Due to the large number of items being recalled that contain peanuts and peanut butter we are asking that all donors PLEASE check the list of recalls at http://www.fda.gov/ before they ship their donations to us. We have had to dispose of a large quantity of snack items because we will not put the troops at risk. We have a limited number of volunteers and it slows down our shipping process if we have to check each lot number before packing. We would appreciate if everyone could take this one extra step to save us time and the cost of disposal.

  We have not found any jars of peanut butter on the list yet so we are continuing to ship small jars of peanut butter with jelly and crackers. We are asking those who are currently doing collections to update their care package item lists. Please highlight the jars of peanut butter and jelly and skip the snack items with peanuts and peanut butter until the FDA says it is again safe to use these items.

 Thanks for your consideration and cooperation.

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Special Requests...

Penpals & Package News

We have an immediate need for AT&T Global Phone Cards for our 4th annual Mother's Day promotion. We are sending them to the mothers who are serving our country so that they can call home for Mother's Day. We need your donations to make sure we have enough for all the females on our current care package list. You can help by making a donation via Paypal (the link is on the right!) or downloading our donation form and mailing a check or money order to the address on the form. You can also order the phone cards at www.aafes.com and have them mailed to us at our Fleetwood address listed above.

We have been communicating with a wonderful, caring woman named Michelle who is working on a project for Mothers Day. She started collecting spa supplies to send some female deployed troops (including her sister) a treat. She called her project H.O.M.E. for Mothers Day and it has really taken off. She let me know today that she is sending us 4 boxes of extra spa treats so that we can ship some of the love to the females on our care package list. These will be going out with our phone cards over the next 2 weeks and should arrive in plenty of time. Thank you Michelle!

Please click Read More for some special requests........

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Silly String Shipping

Penpals & Package News

The following letter is our response to one of the many letters we have received asking us to ship silly string that has been collected by concerned citizens that want to protect and support the troops. We hope this clarifies our position and clears up any confusion:

Thanks for contacting us. I understand your confusion and am sorry for the problem you are having finding help to ship the silly string.

Unfortunately none of the reputable care package organizations that we are aware of are shipping the silly string to the troops. There are several reasons for this. One is the security of the troops themselves. Silly string is in vibrant colors and when the troops use it the neon residue it leaves behind gives away their position to the enemy. They do not usually have time to stop and clean it up when they are doing a search for someone who might shoot at them any second. The empty cans also leave trash behind that lets the insurgents know where they have been.

The second reason is that US postal regulations prohibit any type of pressurized cans from being sent via the mail. We cannot even send shave cream in aerosol cans to the troops. The Department of Defense has asked all the care package organizations to abide by the postal service regulations when shipping care packages to our soldiers and we follow their instructions to protect those we love.

I do understand that the news media made a lot about the woman in NJ who wanted to send this item to her son at his request. I believe she ended up sending everything she had by special courier who has an approved permit to ship aerosol cans. It is very expensive and we do not have the kind of funds that would allow us to pay that much for shipping.

I know this presents a problem for those of you that have collected silly string to send over. What our organization has been doing is suggesting that those who have a lot of cans might want to consider having some kind of fund-raising party. Set up a table and sell each can for $1.00 or so and give people (especially the kids) a chance to do some artwork with it that has a "Support the Troops" theme. After the artwork dries it can be sealed with decoupage glue and hung on display. The proceeds of the sale of silly string can be donated to one of the organizations (like Keystone Soldiers!) that ships care packages to the troops to be used to help defray postage costs. Take some photos of the artists to send along with the money and, if the organization is like ours, the photos would be shipped in the care packages that the money sponsored. We have several other ideas for projects that would still help the troops and get rid of the silly string if you need more ideas. The silly string could also be donated to a local youth group or camp if you don't want to go to all the trouble of having a fundraiser.

Please do not hesitate to contact me by email or phone if you have any questions. I wish we could be more help. As the mother of a soldier on yet another deployment (his third combat tour) my first responsibility is to the safety of our troops. I am sure you can understand our position.

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