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Mathew Mayo, center, husband of Operation Air Conditioner founder Frankie Mayo, talks to employees earlier this year at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in New Castle, Del., as volunteers pack and ship thousands of boots to troops in Iraq. The Mayos have raised more than $2.3 million to send troops’ supplies, including holiday decorations and space heaters currently en route to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mathew Mayo, center, husband of Operation Air Conditioner founder Frankie Mayo, talks to employees earlier this year at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in New Castle, Del., as volunteers pack and ship thousands of boots to troops in Iraq. The Mayos have raised more than $2.3 million to send troops’ supplies, including holiday decorations and space heaters currently en route to Iraq and Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Operation Air Conditioner)

WASHINGTON — Operation Air Conditioner is now working to bring a little holiday warmth to Iraq and Afghanistan, with shipments of Christmas trees, plastic snowmen and portable heaters already arriving in troops’ stockings.

The nonprofit group, founded by Delaware resident Frankie Mayo after her Army son, Cpl. Chris Tomlinson, complained about the intense heat at his Iraq base, has spent the last two summers shipping more than 10,000 air conditioners to units serving in the Middle East.

This fall she began mailing out winter supplies again, spending more than $52,000 on heaters, $130,000 on boots and socks, and $37,000 on holiday decorations. Those items are expected to be in Iraq by Dec. 25.

“There has been an upswing of both money and people wanting to adopt soldiers and Marines,” Mayo said. “We ship at minimum three times a week with a full 24-foot box truck full of items: care packages, tools, combat boots, supplies — anything [the troops] need or ask us for, really.”

Mayo and her family have raised more than $2.3 million in the last two years to buy and send supplies to Iraq. In addition, Mayo’s 12-year-old daughter, Olivia, has begun sending handmade Christmas cards to the troops with the other supplies.

Shipping for the holiday items began in early October, and many troops have already e-mailed her to let her know their bases are beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

First Sgt. Rich Woodring, of the 630th Military Police Company currently serving in Baghdad, said his unit has received 11 decorated trees they have spread throughout their camp, and it has boosted everyone’s morale.

“Her efforts have definitely helped make our quality of life much better,” he told Stars and Stripes via e-mail.

Lt. Col. Myles M. Miyamasu, with the Army’s 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, stationed in Fallujah, said often the connection with friendly faces back home is just as important as the gifts the soldiers receive.

“For some of my soldiers who don’t have a strong support network back at home, this has been a godsend,” he said via e-mail. “These men now have families to write to, to send birthday cards to, and to have someone recognize them for what they are doing.”

For her part, Mayo said she is happy to be able to offer comfort and encouragement to the soldiers serving far from home.

“My hope is that my sons’ generation and my daughter’s generation grow up in a safer world,” she said. “That doesn’t happen without a strong military and Americans to support the soldiers and Marines in it. I will continue as long as there are troops in Iraq or Afghanistan who need my support.”

The U.S. Postal Service has set Dec. 11 as the shipping deadline for care packages and other gifts destined for overseas military bases, but Operation Air Conditioner will continue sending donations and gifts to soldiers into the new year.

For more information, go to: www.operationac.com.

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