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Dentists seeks to put smile on troops' faces

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Locust Grove Dentist Linda King, and her four-member dentistry team are attempting, again, to put smiles on the faces of members of the military.

The team has organized a candy buy-back event for Nov. 3, to buy back candy left-over from this year's trick-or-treating festivities. She will buy the wrapped candy back from area residents at $1 per pound, up to $10, in order to add the candy to care packages which will be sent to troops overseas. It is a national support effort, known as Operation Gratitude.

"I think everybody wants to be able to make a difference, and I think this is a great way for everyone to help make a difference, especially during these hard economic times," King said. "I think it's great."

Operation Gratitude seeks to lift troop morale by sending care packages addressed to individual service members deployed overseas. The care packages contain food, toiletries, entertainment items and personal appreciation letters.

King said she got the idea to help support the effort from Wisconsin dentist Chris Kammer, who created a similar candy buy-back program a few years ago to eventually have candy end up in care packages for U.S. military personnel serving around the world.

"In speaking with the service members that come to my office, they say there's no greater thing than to receive a care package," King said. "They say that's the one thing they looked forward to ..."

For the second year, King's effort will directly support Operation Gratitude as well as help educate parents, and give them options with what to do with excess candy.

Among King's supporters is one of her patients, businessman Randy King, of Jackson, Ga., who served in the U.S. Army in the late 1970s.

"I spent four years in the military and received care packages from my family," said Randy King. "I had been on the receiving end a good bit. I don't care where you are, when you receive a care package, it shows that someone really cares about you and appreciates what you're doing."

Operation Gratitude, which lasts through Dec. 5, needs various items to send to troops - from candy, to prepaid phone cards, to socks.

"These guys, regardless of where they're at - whether they are state-side or in a combat area - they are willing to sacrifice for their country," added Randy. "They need support from everybody, regardless of what people's opinions are. Those guys are there in support of what our country stands for."

Linda King plans to buy back the candy on Monday, between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. She will take candy at her Locust Grove office, 4146 Ga. Highway 42, during the day, however.

The effects of the effort, King said, will be two-fold. Parents and children will be able to give to a good cause at no expense, while they do positive things for their dental hygiene by getting rid of the excess, sugary treats.

"It's just a way to help everybody," she said. "I have a four-year-old myself. For me, I wondered what am I going to do with all of this trick-or-treating candy. And I think there are a lot of parents who are going through the same thing."

During the buy-back, King will give out sugar-free, cavity-preventing lollipops as donated by supporter, Carifree of Albany, Ore. She said she will also accept donations to help cover the cost of shipping the candy to California, where Operation Gratitude is based.

So far, she has an growing list of supporters and sponsors.

On Monday, about six students at the Academy for the Brilliant Child (ABC) Montessori School in McDonough will assist King and her staff weigh the candy. The students will also create personal messages to send to the troops. Also, several local businesses will help with the shipping costs, including Skyline Printing of Locust Grove, First National Bank of Griffin, Pump It Up of McDonough, and O'hara Bowling of Jackson.

Last year, King's team bought back 60 pounds of candy. This year, she hopes to multiple that amount.

"It would be nice to have 600 pounds that we can ship over to them," King said. "We're just really excited about this whole thing. It's not much to ask for people to help out with this. I think it's a good organization. The more community involvement that can be generated ... it's all in the spirit of giving."

On the net:

Operation Gratitude: www.operationgratitude.com

Linda King: www.lindakingdds.com