By Vikaas Shanker – MODESTO BEE
What started as a Facebook group for the musicians Moonshine Bandits, and an urge for philanthropy, led to a nonprofit organization that sends about 300 care packages each year to U.S. troops abroad.
Operation Packing Company Inc. has been putting together care boxes for troops since 2011. But January marks the first month it will operate as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
“It’s been a labor of love to become a nonprofit,” organization treasurer Nicole Dahlgren said.
Each box the organization sends includes hygiene products such as shampoo, deodorant and baby wipes; ramen noodles, soup and coffee; stationery and batteries; and “something fun” such as a pack of cards.
Boxes also contain letters from schoolchildren expressing appreciation and thanks.
The organization was founded by fans and members of the Moonshine Bandits, a Los Banos-based country rap group. The president of the organization is Moonshine Bandits member Dusty “Big Tex” Dahlgren, a Los Banos native.
“The Moonshine Bandits started in Los Banos and it’s now charting the billboards,” Dahlgren said. “It basically had a bunch of military coming to concerts, and we wanted to repay them for their service and for coming to the shows.”
The organization originally started with a Facebook group of about 130 members pulling ideas on “something to get behind,” said vice president Anastasia Olson.
They came up with sending packages to troops. In July 2011, the group set up five boxes and tried to figure out how to send them.
It was tough at first, trying to fill out all the paperwork and get the boxes through customs checks. But as the months and years went on, the organization started to grow with volunteers and donations.
Now, the organization has packing parties, preparing and shipping about 25 boxes per month. But the organization started applying for nonprofit status last year to do even more.
The Moonshine Bandits are the organization’s official sponsors.
“Today, we’ve seen what 25 boxes can do,” Nicole Dahlgren said. “We want to see what 50, 100 boxes can do. We want to see this grow. And we want to provide for the soldiers.”
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