Maine Troop Greeter Karen Walker wrote me recently to express the gratitude of the greeters “to the citizens of Maine for the support they have shown” that organization, which has been on hand, since 2003, with a welcome home or supportive send-off for more than 1 million troops passing through Bangor International Air-port.
“Maine folks understand, when there is a need for our troops, that it is important to assist them,” Walker wrote in explaining that the greeters “work hard to provide the troops with various snacks and travel-size toiletries to help make their brief stay in Bangor as pleasant as possible.”
She said that “the cost of these items is around $2,000 a month,” and that “after many years of greeting troops, it has become a challenge for the Greeters to fund this need,” which is why they are reaching out “to the community, for support.”
To say I was surprised at the monthly cost of this effort is an understatement and, when I called troop greeter chairman Tom Kohl of Brewer, I was in for a bigger surprise.
“Between the snacks we provide and the food and toiletries, the cost is actually $2,100 to $2,200 a month,” Kohl told me.
“Believe it or not, one of our biggest and most popular snacks are Twinkies.”
When a soldier bites into a Twinkie, he said with a chuckle, many will remark, “What a flashback to my youth!”
The greeters purchase those Twinkies at Wal-Mart.
“Sam’s Club gives us an allowance for pastries, cinnamon rolls and cookies, and we buy a lot of things at Sam’s and Wal-Mart and from many local companies,” Kohl said.
“We’ve found lots of different kind of candies that they like.”
Greeters also purchase “the basic toiletries such as razors, shaving cream, toothpaste and toothbrushes,” and receive some help with that expense “from the Soldiers’ Angels program,” he added.
“But the biggest problem we have is with shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste,” Kohl said.
“The security is so paramount, for the airport and for us, that we’ve been warned about having shaving cream in cans. We have to use the single-use size.
“Karen has been very influential in finding single-issue packets of toothpaste, deodorant wipes and shaving cream,” Kohl said, adding that those items are “particularly important for troops on their way home.”
“Those incoming troops like to clean up, but they are under the same restrictions as other airline passengers,” he said. “They still have all the TSA regulations in terms of carry-on items.”
Kohl said the greeters find it rather ironic that while the soldiers’ “weapons are in the plane, they can’t carry toothpaste.”
Many of the incoming troops “don’t have toiletries handy, and they may have been in transit a week and a half,” he said.
“When they see we’ve got toiletries, they are very relieved. They really want to clean up before they get home.”
So, how can you help?
Simple: Send the troop greeters a check.
“Money is the best thing,” Kohl said of supporting this effort.
“Everyone has the greatest of intentions, but we still have to check it out, store it, and make sure it is used within its expiration date. So it’s financial support we really need.”
Kohl and the 13-member board encourage you to continue to support their efforts to make our troops feel welcome when they pass through Bangor.
Send your financial donations to the Maine Troop Greeters, Bangor International Airport, 287 Godfrey Blvd., Box 6, Bangor 04401.
If you want more information, you are welcome to call Kohl at 989-2012 or treasurer Cathy Czarnecki at 848-5901.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.