Police mark Veterans Day with collection for overseas military personnel Saturday at Walmart

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Six local police departments are teaming with the United Service Organization of Northern Ohio, to make Veterans Day special for veterans and those currently serving overseas in the military.

The police departments and the USO will be asking area residents to contribute needed items to be sent during the holiday season to those serving the country in far-away lands.

The care package donation drive, which the USO has titled "The Force Behind the Forces," will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day -- at Walmart, 6954 Mayfield Road in Mayfield Heights.

"We feel it is not only a privilege but an obligation, as well, to serve those serving us in the military," said Mayfield Village Police Chief Richard Edelman. "The USO has been so vital in helping military families and military serving overseas. We couldn't say no to helping in any way we can."

Edelman said police chiefs in Mayfield Heights, Lyndhurst, Richmond Heights, Highland Heights and Gates Mills were equally enthusiastic in joining the cause, as was Walmart management. Also participating will be the Cleveland Heights Police Academy cadets.

Edelman said MVPD Sgt. John Argie and MHPD Corp. Doug Woods and Lt. Rodney Leonard were instrumental in organizing the "fill the cruiser" event.

Residents are asked to bring for donation toiletries and snacks. Toiletries can include hand sanitizer, skin lotion, shaving cream, dental floss, mouthwash in small containers, toothpaste, travel/baby wipes and disposable razors.

Snacks may include Raman noodles, trail mix, peanut butter in small containers, granola bars, gum, instant hot cereal or oatmeal, beef jerky, sugar, powdered drink mixes and tuna fish.

Other needed items are flypaper, eyeglass repair kits, hand warmers, dark bandanas, white cotton socks, playing cards, earbuds and dryer sheets.

Items that should not be donated include paper towels, toilet paper, batteries and aerosol spray cans.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet local law enforcement personnel and see close-up police cruisers and motorcycles, and bomb squad and SWAT trucks.

MVPD K-9 Leo, who also serves other area departments, will be present and will put on a demonstration with his handler at 1:30 p.m.

"It's a huge thing for those serving overseas to receive a piece of home," said USO Event and Volunteer Manager Tanya Karabanovs. "It lets them know that the people back home have not forgotten about them. Some, especially the younger ones, don't have anybody to send them things."

Karabanovs said that the event will be live-streamed on Facebook so that military personnel serving around the world can watch.

The USO will make available on-site care package distribution request forms. Participants can sign up to add a family member or friend stationed overseas to the mailing list. Those donating can also send cards and notes to those serving.

"The support from the community through this Veterans Day Donation Drive sponsored by the police and Walmart is so important," said Anne Marie Hammond, USONO West Geauga Care Package Facility Volunteer, in a release. "Our goal is to send 'a bit of home' to our deployed service members as they spend the holidays separated from loved ones.

"They are always appreciative of the donated items contained in the care packages."

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