POTSDAM Mary M. Charleston and the Potsdam Elks Lodge hope to add a little sweetness to the lives of returning soldiers by collecting 10,000 candy bars for Fort Drums USO.
They still have a long way to go. So far Ms. Charleston has raised fewer than 2,800 treats, with less than three weeks to go.
Ms. Charleston first learned about the need for chocolate bars two years ago. Returning soldiers are usually kept in a hangar for several hours upon arrival. Many of them have not tasted chocolate in months, and the treat can help make the wait to see their families more pleasant.
Its about four to six hours, and they cant even see their family. When I went on the tour, I was amazed, Ms. Charleston said.
Any extra chocolate bars collected are given to the soldiers to pass on to their children, whom sometimes they have never met, Ms. Charleston said.
After her tour, Ms. Charleston gathered 7,500 chocolate bars and donated them to the USO. Now she hopes to raise even more with the Sweet Treats for Soldiers campaign.
Its a hard thing to do to collect 10,000 candy bars, she said.
Collection boxes have been set up in businesses and advertisements have been placed with local media. Ms. Charleston has partnered with Potsdams B99.3 radio station for the drive, and every Thursday she travels with the station van to a different location to broadcast live and collect donations.
She collects both candy bars and money. Any financial donations will be used to buy candy wholesale at the end of the drive.
Ive basically put some feelers out there with some local wholesalers, she said.
With her deadline drawing ever closer, Ms. Charleston said shes eager to get the word out and drum up more donations.
I think its a really small price to pay, and I think its something that we can do to help a soldier, she said. Youre making their day.
Any kind of chocolate bar is welcome. Anyone interested in donating can go to several local businesses, listed below, or contact Ms. Charleston at 566-9058.
The following locations accept donations:
n Potsdam Elks Lodge
n B99.3, Potsdam
n Fosters Collision, Potsdam
n Brewer Book Store, Canton
n Save A Lot, Potsdam
n Grants Gas Station, Potsdam
n Kunoco Mini Marts