By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON – After nine years, the Jefferson County Operation Iraqi Freedom program is still going strong and organizers are optimistic about the success of an upcoming fundraiser for the effort.
The volunteer program seeks to raise funds to purchase military exchange cards for Jefferson County soldiers serving in war zones.
This year’s goal is to raise $13,000 to provide 15 soldiers with $800 exchange cards before Christmas. These are local soldiers serving in Afghanistan or the Afghanistan Theater of Operations.
“The entire community comes together to remember our military personnel,” said David Keen, chairman of the Jefferson County Operation Iraqi Freedom Committee. “A lot of times, they are over there fighting for our freedom and they think they are forgotten. This is a way for the community to thank them.”
The program’s main fundraiser is a porkchop sales event, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at Veterans Park. This year’s fundraiser is being named in honor of Joyce and Harold Poorman and Dr. Judii York, all of whom passed away recently.
Joyce Poorman was the former co-chair of the Operation Iraqi Freedom Committee. York, a retired District 80 school administrator, helped raise funds for the annual program.
“We wanted to do something to honor them this year,” Keen said.
Charles York of Mt. Vernon, Judii York’s husband, said naming the fundraiser after his wife is a fitting tribute to her years of dedication to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I think it’s just one more honor that she’s achieved even now after her passing,” Charles said. “People are never going to forget her for what she did, especially for Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
The porkchops are cooked on the day of the fundraiser, but orders are taken ahead of time. Each porkchop meal costs $7.
Those who purchase fewer than 10 orders can pick them up at Veterans Park on Oct. 11. Orders of 10 or more porkchops will be delivered.
The Jefferson County Operation Iraqi Freedom program was launched in 2004 after Joyce Poorman’s son, Troy, was deployed to Iraq.
Following the deployment, Joyce talked to Keen about whether something could be done to help Troy and other Jefferson County soldiers serving overseas.
Keen, a retired Army/National Guard member, suggested purchasing military exchange cards, or PX cards, for the troops. These cards can be used at any military installation to buy various items either online or in person.
Soon, a committee of volunteers was formed and each year they have raised money to supply PX cards to soldiers around Christmas time.
Troy Poorman, now a major in the Missouri Air National Guard, said the program is a great help to local soldiers. The last time Troy received a PX card through the program in 2006, he used it to help pay for a dishwasher for his family’s new home.
“We are very appreciative of the community coming together to support the military,” Troy said. “I don’t know any other counties that do what Jefferson County does for the military.”
In the program’s first year, $150 PX cards were purchased. Gradually, though, the program grew and more expensive cards were acquired. For the last five or six years, the program has provided $800 PX cards, Keen said.
Many of the troops who receive these gifts are overwhelmed with gratitude, Keen said.
“We’ve gotten so many thank-you cards,” Keen said. “They are shocked to get an $800 gift card.”
Soldiers can use the PX cards to purchase many different kinds of items, including food, TVs, appliances, clothing, and more.
Apart from the porkchop fundraiser, the program also accepts donations from individuals, churches, schools, and other organizations.
Rent One owners Larry and Sharon Carrico have pledged $500 as the first donation to this year’s program. Also, St. Mary’s Catholic Church has agreed to ask for a special donation for the program as part of their services.
Keen said he foresees continuing this project until all Jefferson County soldiers have returned home from deployment.
“Hopefully, one of these days it will end when all of our soldiers are out of harm’s way,” Keen said.
For more information on the program, contact Keen at 316-9502.