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Posted: 05/08/13

Annual Walter Reed
donation drive a success

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      The generosity of the local area has remained unwavering for years, and an annual effort to ease the recuperation of wounded soldiers is no exception.
       Representatives from the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) will take a plethora of items collected during a donation drive to soldiers in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on May 12.
       Jim Tignanelli, a Bruce Township resident and POAM president, has visited the military hospital since 1995 during National Police Week in Washington, D.C. to give items to soldiers recovering from wounds received overseas.
       He said it started with giving T-shirts to soldiers, but has expanded to include giving items like tablets, iPods, clothing, electric razors and DVD players.
       "In the past it's been simple items, and they're usually overwhelmed because they're receiving items from people they don't know," he said. "Now we're giving them things like Kindle Fires, and for many of them it's like a dream come true to communicate with the outside world with a device like that."
       Thanks to donations of items and cash, 15 soldiers will receive a Kindle Fire HD this year, which cost around $200 each. They will also receive a DVD player, an iPod Shuffle, an electric razor, clothing and weight-lifting gloves.
       Each soldier will also receive $300 to $400 in gift cards to various stores and restaurants. Tignanelli said the cards are helpful for when a soldier's family rushes to the hospital to be with their loved one.
       "So many families come on short notice and end up staying a long time, and they come without personal things they didn't think to pack," he said. "Now they can go and buy those items or go off-site and have something to eat."
       Additional items donated included movies and books. In the past the hospital would place any extra items into a supply depot. This year, Tignanelli said he will have the chance to visit outpatient soldiers in addition to the 15 soldiers, meaning he can provide items to them as well.
       "It's nice to be able to hand it to someone instead of putting it in storage," he said.
       The donation effort began Feb. 6 and ended May 3. Drop-off sites were located at Heidebreicht Chevrolet and Keller and Associates Real Estate Office. Meanwhile, Bruce Township donated tote bags for all the items.
       "There's been generous people all around us, it's been really nice," he said.
       Videos and other information about the upcoming trip can be found at www.poam.net/donate.


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