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Local motel collecting donations for U.S. troops

WORTHINGTON -- As part of the nationwide AmericInn Cares program, the AmericInn Lodge and Suites of Worthington has begun collecting donations of essential items for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 85 motels in the AmericInn chain are taking part in the troop support program, with the hope of bringing communities together to assemble the care packages.

Nancy Vaske, manager of Worthington's AmericInn, said packages will be assembled from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 14, at the local AmericInn, 1475 Darling Dr. Up until then, donations will be accepted from the public for the care packs.

"We want businesses, organizations and private parties to give," said Vaske. "Volunteers are needed to help pack, and refreshments will be served."

Members of the Worthington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post will be on hand for the event, as well as representatives from Minnesota's Blue Star Mothers. The organization is working with AmericInn nationwide to send the packages to soldiers serving overseas.

"We want to get some of the family members of soldiers who are now serving involved also," Vaske said.

Among the items sought for the care packages are snack foods (beef jerky, trail mix, pre-packed snack cakes, breakfast/granola/power bars, sunflower seeds, fruit cups, licorice, beef summer sausage, pudding cups, pop-top stew or ravioli and ramen noodles), toiletries (deodorant, bandages, cotton swabs, foot powder, fingernail clippers, shampoo, small packs of wipes, hand sanitizer, shampoo and conditioner) and packets of hot chocolate, cider, tea, coffee and Crystal Light drink mixes. Also on the list are magazines, playing cards,dice, small paint brushes, devotional books, notepads and envelopes, facial tissue, pens, mechanical pencils and small sports balls.

Donations of money are also welcome, as it will cost approximately $13 per box to mail the items. Those who wish to contribute financially are asked to write checks payable to Blue Star Mothers and drop them off at AmericInn by Nov. 14.

This is the second AmericInn campaign this year -- the first was to assemble hundreds of care packages for the troops during AmericInn's annual convention last April in Las Vegas, Nev.

"We were looking for ways to bring (the care package program) to a corporate level," said Lindsay Jones, who is spearheading the AmericInn Cares program nationwide.

"Patriotism is in our name and in our blood," added Leah Frank, marketing coordinator for AmericInn. "We're in a lot of smaller markets. A lot of people who work in our motels have family members overseas or know of someone."

Packaging events in most of the 80 motels will take place in the week surrounding Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Because of data privacy, AmericInn will pass off the packages to the Blue Star Mothers to address the packages and send them overseas.

The list of essential items sought for donations was provided by the organization, which collects feedback from soldiers.

"A lot of properties have taken it one step further and partnered with local schools or organizations to make Christmas ornaments or hand-made cards to add to the boxes," added Frank.

Jones said that while this is the first year of AmericInn Cares, it will be an ongoing program for the motels in the chain. The goal is to complete two projects each year.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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