Chicago Proud: Operation Support Our Troops assembles 2 million pounds of care packages to date

LISLE, Ill. (WLS) -- A local organization that supports service members and veterans is making Chicago Proud.

Operation Support Our Troops is dedicated to sending care packages to troops. The organization reached a major milestone this week as it assembled 2 million pounds of donated items to date.

For some volunteers, the process is deeply meaningful. Behind every comfort package is a volunteer with a story.

"My wife and I just said this is an organization we need to be part of and to help our troops deployed," said Ralph Grieco, Gold Star father and volunteer.

So Ralph and Linda Grieco jumped in at Operation Support Our Troops.

Their own son, Staff Sgt. Kevin Grieco, was deployed in Afghanistan.

"We had an opportunity, my wife and I, to pack his box," said Ralph Grieco.

"You put a lot of love into that box," said Linda Grieco.

Love is the right word. Today, more than 175 volunteers assemble packages and send them to troops around the globe. They are full of essential items.

"Our kits are the most important. Our grooming kit, our medical kit, our dental kit," said Kevin Krause, volunteer.

Staff Sgt. Grieco got his box, and was killed in action a month later. It was 2008.

"If anything we learned from his death is he would want us to give back," said Ralph Grieco.

And they are. The Griecos and another Gold Star couple, the Stevensons, ceremoniously packed the 2-millionth pound of donated items.

The organization also helps veteran groups like GI Yoga and Gold Star Families too. They take a "Leap of Faith" to move forward.

"The support we have received from each other. We all share common ground," said Joe Stevenson, Gold Star father & volunteer.

"As long as there are troops in harms way, we'll be here to send them package," said Ron Belanger, volunteer.

"With our deployed soldiers all over the world numerous places, it's the least we can do to thank them for what they do for us," said Ralph Grieco.

Operation Support Our Troops started 16 years ago. Bill and Deb Rickert thought they would send a package to their son who was deployed. Now the organization has sent thousands of packages. They will sending 175 this week.

If anyone has a loved one deployed, they can have a package sent. Visit http:www.osotamerica.org/ for more information.
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