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Letters of support sought for soldiers

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A local store is collecting letters of appreciation to be sent to active-duty military personnel serving overseas.

The letters should be sent to soldiers, generally expressing support for their military service, said Deanna Hemperley, community relations specialist for BJ's Wholesale Club.

The BJ's at 1990 Jonesboro Road in McDonough is conducting the letter-writing campaign as part of Military Appreciation Month. The letters will be accepted through May 31, then sent to troops serving overseas, said Hemperley.

To celebrate Military Appreciation Month, BJ's Wholesale Club is challenging the communities in which it has clubs to help write 50,000 letters. Each store has a goal of collecting at least 300 letters.

"It's to help lift morale for the armed forces," Hemperley said. "For every letter, up to 50,000, BJ's will donate $1 to Operation Gratitude."

Operation Gratitude is a non-profit organization which sends more than 100,000 care packages to military personnel each year.

Laura Sen, the president and CEO of BJ's Wholesale Club, said in a written statement that her company is proud to express its "admiration and thanks to the brave men and women who serve our country."

"We believe our local communities will enthusiastically share our interest in relaying our deepest support to the U.S. service members," Sen added.

Carolyn Blashek, founder and president of Operation Gratitude, said in the statement that letters from the public do not go unnoticed by military personnel.

"Troops tell us that letters are the most cherished items they receive," Blashek said. "[They] often place them next to their hearts, or in their helmets, to read again and again."

Letters can be dropped off at any BJ's Wholesale Club in a mailbox designated for Operation Gratitude, or submitted online via the store chain's Facebook page at www.bjs.com/facebook. Letters can also be mailed to Operation Gratitude, 16444 Refugio Road, Encino, Calif., 91436.

For more details, call the McDonough BJ's location at (678) 432-0194, or Deanna Hemperley at (678) 371-6163.