Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 26, 2004

Winsted bank establishes Iraq fund

By Ryan Gueningsman

After reading a Wall Street Journal editorial, Community Bank Winsted President Roger Boyce became inspired to do something to help troops serving overseas.

Boyce is working with a project called “Spirit of America,” which is a nonprofit, charitable organization that helps Americans serving abroad improve the lives of people in need, according to its web site.

“We enable American military personnel to submit requests for goods that will help local people. Typically, the requests are for items that established aid organizations and government bureaucracies are not designed to handle, and that fall in the gaps between large-scale assistance programs – yet can make an important difference,” according to the site.

“Utilizing the Internet and grass roots communication, Spirit of America (SoA) works to fulfill the requests through donors in the United States. SoA collects the tax-deductible donated funds and procures the goods, or secures the direct donation of the requested goods, and arranges shipment to the requestor. We are now accepting and fulfilling requests from Americans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not seek, require or accept funding from the U.S. Government,” according to the site.

Boyce said he felt that many local people may want to do something to help troops that are overseas.

He also noted that last year, the bank provided names of local service members and encouraged people to send care packages to these men and women that are serving the country.

“The response was terrific,” Boyce said. “People may get a feeling of satisfaction of they did something instead of just watching it on TV.”

A request has recently been made by the First Marine Division in Iraq to equip seven television stations serving local communities within Al Anbar Province, Iraq. These stations will offer information that is more accurate and balanced than existing alternatives. The goal is to improve understanding between Americans and Iraqis, build trust, and reduce tensions, according to the SoA web site.

Current television news in Iraq often carries negative, highly-biased accounts of the U.S. presence. Unanswered, its effect is to stoke resentment and encourage conflict. The Marines seek to ensure the Iraqi people have access to better, more balanced information.

By equipping local television stations and providing the ability to generate news and programming, the Marines will create a viable news alternative - one owned and operated by local Iraqi citizens.

The donated equipment will be the property of the Iraqi stations. The stations can create their own news and choose their own programming with the agreement that they will prohibit airing of anti-coalition messages that incite the local population.

The stations also agree to sell airtime at a fair market price so that the Marines can communicate their information efficiently and quickly when needed.

For example, images were recently broadcast of a mosque in Fallujah damaged during fighting. With these stations, the Marines could have provided the full picture by airing video of combatants firing on them from the mosque grounds.

These stations would have enabled Iraqis to understand the complete picture. News of reconstruction projects and humanitarian assistance that balances the news of conflict will also be provided on these stations. The stations will be free to criticize the Coalition.

To help with outreach to potential corporate donors (tool manufacturers and retailers), visit www.spiritofamerica.com.

Boyce also said that a fund has been set up at Community Bank Winsted to go toward the cost of some of these requests. Donations can be sent to Community Bank Winsted, Attn: Spirit of America Fund, PO Box 130, Winsted, MN 55395.

The editorial that Boyce read in the Wall Street Journal can be found on the Herald Journal Viewpoints page.

LP troops also seek things from home

Three Lester Prairie High School graduates, Nick Fiecke, Charlie Parpart, and Mike Dietel, are stationed in Iraq as members of the National Guard.

“Since they are working so hard for all of us and risking their lives for all of us, it would be nice to do something sweet for them,” English teacher Julie Olson said.

Olson hopes to get care packages made for the three and send the packages to them in Iraq. She is requesting students and people from the community to bring items to the school that can be sent in care packages.

“Charlie has made a specific request for candy,” Olson said. However, chocolate cannot be accepted because it will melt.

Items that have been specifically requested include Laffy Taffy, Skittles, Starbursts and Tootsie Pops, as well as snowmobiling and dirtbiking magazines and word searches.

Items can be brought to the high school, specifically Olson’s room (147). For further information, contact Olson at (320) 395-2521.

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