Monday, November 22, 2010

Mailing Instructions

It's time to mail packages for Christmas arrival!

Email me at nancy@auntnancyusa.com to request a name to send your Christmas stockings, or other holiday packages to.  Please give me an estimate of how many stockings you might be able to send.  I do not post troops' names online.

In addition to Christmas stockings, I have requests for LOTS of Christmas cards to our troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and even at bases in the USA.


WHAT TO DO:

Start at the post office and pick up a free LARGE, FLAT RATE, Priority Mail box, and a Customs Declaration form. It's best to get the boxes ahead of time because you can figure out how full to make your stockings & how many will fit. And the post office often runs out this time of year. Your packages can easily cost double the $12.50 to ship if you don't use these boxes discounted for military destinations.  "If it fits, it ships"!

Visit your local "dollar store" for the best prices on the classic red and white stockings that are so sentimental to the troops.  You can also purchase some winter-theme boxes to make holiday packages for non-Christians.

While many of the troops I have right now are in bare-bones, remote, locations in Afghanistan, make the stockings fun.  Save the soap (unless it's got Santa on it!) for regular packages.

Mailing cut-off dates from the US Postal Service based on APO mailing code:  Mailing dates  They offer later dates than I recommend, especially to Afghanistan. Some of the troops I have are in remote areas, and additional time is necessary. Also, we would like packages to arrive at least a week before Christmas (or whichever holiday you are mailing for.)

Afghanistan: prior to November 30th*. *updated-- some packages are already arriving!
Iraq: first week of December will still probably work. (Priority Mail)

But never hesitate to mail because an item might be late.  Certainly for our troops, "better late than never" is most appropriate. Some mail has arrived in two weeks.  We can't be sure. Of course you can always send a New Year's package.

If possible, print this form and put it in your stockings, and packages:  Info Sheet


Suggestions for stocking fillers:
  • candy candy candy - especially chocolate and holiday theme (drug stores are good for these)   Mini-candy canes are best for shipping.
  • cookies (NOT homemade - store bought and packaged only) Oreo cookies are favorites!
  • treats like Twinkies, Hostess cupcakes, Little Debbie
  • hot chocolate packets 
  • small toys like a micro-machine - one in a stocking is fun
  • beef jerky
  • a current sports or fitness magazine
  • gum, nuts, pretzels, trail mix packages. Twizzlers licorice is another favorite.
  • tubes of potato chips, cookies
  • Starbucks single serving Via instant coffee packets
  • small cans of energy drinks
  • a greeting card, maybe include your group or family photo, and "Aunt Nancy" note (see below)
  • fake snow
  • nice smelling shampoo or body wash (small bottles - in ziploc bags)
  • a short string of Christmas lights (if you are mailing early enough)
  • a hand-held electronic game
  • left-over Halloween candy
  • if you have funds: iTunes cards and iPod shuffles are high on their wish lists!
A Santa hat, antlers, or other silly cap goes over well.
No batteries -- unless specifically requested by your troop.
("JSS Loyalty" needs AA & AAA size)
Small footballs and play things are nice gifts.
Check back, I'll be adding more suggestions.

Include a note with your name, city (or full address if you would like) email, and maybe even a photo. lf you want a reply, insert a self-addressed return envelope.
Tell them you are sending the holiday cheer through "Aunt Nancy USA" and include that my program is now on Facebook as well as www.auntnancyusa.com

HOW TO MAIL:

Get the boxes ASAP!  The post office often runs out this time of year. Grab a large Customs Declaration form while there too.

Unless you are mailing very large quantities, always use USPS Priority Mail for best assurance of delivery. The LARGE FLAT RATE Priority Mail usually saves money. There is a $2.00 discount on the large Flat Rate boxes to Army Post Office (APO) and FPO addresses.  ($12.50 instead of $14.50). You should be able to get 2 or 3 filled stockings per box.

You can even buy the flat rate postage online and save!  It will cost only $11.95.  Print the postage, fill out the customs form, and call the post office. They will come to your home or office and pick up the packages. How cool is that!!!

Image of Large Flat-Rate Box
Keep boxes neat and professional.  No stickers or drawings on the outside.  If the addresses are not neat and easy to read, especially the RETURN address, it may not be delivered. For security reasons the military is very fussy about this.
Use clear tape if possible, wrapping all edges of the boxes. They have a long way to go and are not handled gently. All liquids must be in ziploc style bags. 

Customs Declaration forms are required, and are available at the post office along with the free Priority Mail boxes. In the area marked In case of non-delivery put re-direct to "Chaplain" and the same address as your soldier.  (Unless I gave you another name.)

Your packages are actually being mailed to a domestic military base, so you are not paying to ship overseas. The country your soldier is in does not matter. The military will fly the packages to your soldiers' units.

Note: No homemade baked goods are allowed in packages, for the safety of our troops.
Only after you have developed a relationship with a soldier you personally adopt are home made cookies or goodies permissible.

Here are some ideas of what to write on a note in the Christmas stockings:

Hello and Merry Christmas from _____________________
We received your unit through  "Aunt Nancy USA"
www.auntnancyusa.com
We hope this gift sheds a little sunshine on your day,... brings a smile to your face, (something like that) or,
Sending these goodies in case Santa cannot get clearance to fly over.
We are thinking of you and the sacrifices you are making for our country.
A reply is not necessary, but we would like to know this package was received,
and you can let us know of any special requests we might be able to help you with.
Your name,
Group name
address
and email (if you want them to email -- which is more likely than a returned note)


If you want a reply, in each stocking include:
a self-addressed reply envelope (no stamps required)
a reply card, index card-size paper with something like this:
Soldier's name ________________________
APO address _________________________
[  ]  Yes, I received your package
Items I could use are ___________________
My email address is (optional)  ____________________

Attach it to your note or envelope.

Female stockings: If you would like to make a Christmas stocking specially for a female, tie a big pink ribbon on it and a label "FEMALE".  All the stockings will be passed out randomly, 

One further note for holiday packages:
On your box, and Customs Declaration form, please include
"Aunt Nancy USA "
in your return address.
That way the chaplains or other troops will know your package is part of our Christmas project.
This isn't absolutely required, but can be helpful to the Chaplains.
Example:
Jane Doe
Aunt Nancy USA
1234 Main St
New York, USA

Fundraiser:
I'm hosting a fundraiser for cards for the troops. You can help by visiting my website:
www.sendoutcards.com/storefront/simcocards and creating a greeting card for $2.99 (includes 44 cents postage!)  Have the card mailed to a soldier or a friend, whomever you choose.
From your computer you can personalize cards, and then the cards are  printed and mailed for you!
ALL profits go to "Aunt Nancy USA" for free cards for the troops.  Thanks!


PLEASE DO NOT send stockings directly to Andrew May without checking in with me.  I have certain numbers requested for a variety of units and have to keep track of how many packages are going to each one. The stockings are sent to one person collecting them, and will be passed out at Christmas services.

 
There is just me and my laptop here, no large organization.  I try to answer every email within a day or two, but it gets difficult in November!  :)


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