SARASOTA -- U.S. troops spending Christmas overseas received holiday packages brimming with staples such as phone cards, sunglasses and toiletries after the Paradies gift shops at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport collected items through donation baskets.
"We put baskets at each cash register in the airport stores and we ask each customer if they'd like to donate something," said Karen McCray, a manager at Paradies.
Customers can choose their own item from the store or donate a suggested item. Popular picks include magazines, fruit and nut mixes, reading glasses and playing cards.
When baskets are full, Manasota Operation Troop Support, a local nonprofit that supports military personnel with ties to Manatee and Sarasota, picks them up to make Christmas care packages.
Nearly 150 boxes have been mailed to troops in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Africa, Turkestan on U.S. Navy ships, said Linda Craig, MOTS director. Craig said she was especially excited to be able to include $15 phone cards so soldiers can call home.
"The phone cards were a real boost. We were able to put them in all the boxes that went out for Christmas," she said.
Paradies provides donations to MOTS exclusively.
"We like the idea of local support and we feel confident that the items are getting to the troops," McCray said.
MOTS and Paradies work together all year to provide care packages for the troops and will continue to collect items after Christmas.
The Paradies stores accepting donations: Brighton Collectibles, Gulf Coast TravelMart, PGA Tour Shop and Dunkin' Donuts. All are on the second floor before the airport security check.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow@sabrinarocco on Twitter.