Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Books for soldiers

You may have heard of Books for Soldiers, a web-based troop support organization which has been around since 2003. There are somewhere around 1,000 active volunteers at any one time, from all over the country. It's yet another opportunity to do something tangible in support of our military men and women.

The site receives 700 to 1,000 requests for support from deployed troops each month, and volunteers do their best to fill the requests. Requests range from books of all sorts to all the usual sorts of care package items (DVDs, CDs, magazines, snacks, toiletries, pillows and blankets, hand warmers, etc.) to letters for troops who never receive mail from home. The BFS website is in a message board format—requests are received and posted by the site moderators/administrators, and the volunteers post replies with what they are sending. In this way we can avoid duplication and make sure that all requests get some replies and none are inundated.

They are at risk of shut-down due to costs to simply to run the website, and several months ago a notice was posted about a fund raising effort. The monthly costs are staggering (these are 2007 monthly averages):
--$1,600 for rent
--$277 for utilities
--$4,258 for IT services (server farm, hosting, bandwidth)
--$1,500 for IT maintenance contract
--$350 for security software license fees

The monthly cost for these necessities totals almost $8,000. In addition, the BFS office sends out care packages to troops who do not want or cannot have their names and addresses posted on the website, and that expense runs about another $2,000 per month. No one associated with Books for Soldiers receives any compensation for their time—it’s a wholly volunteer effort. (The volunteers spend their own funds on the items we send and postage.)

The board of directors of BFS determined that $70,000 has to be raised by October 31, 2008, or the site will have to close. We are only a little more than a month from the deadline, and still $25,000 short of the goal.

Donations are tax deductible. Here is the link directly to the Paypal link at the donation page: http://booksforsoldiers.com/donate.php. The mailing address for donations by check is at the bottom of that page.

I encourage you to go to the website yourself. You can see a small part of the website by clicking on the “forum” tab. By agreement with the Department of Defense, and in order to protect the troops from unscrupulous people, everyone wishing to have access to the actual requests from deployed troops must complete a brief application, have their signature notarized (verifying identity of the applicant) and mail it to the BFS office for processing. Once processed, the request boards become visible. Anyone with a .mil e-mail address can bypass this process by first establishing a user name and password, and then e-mailing one of the site moderators from your .mil account. (Click on a moderator’s name listed on each message board.)

Good people doing great work. Please help them stay in business.


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