Feb 18, 2014 6:28 PM by Jeanette Trompeter
There are a lot of drives over the holidays to support our troops overseas, but the need is there year-round. Thankfully, so is a guy name Si' Tenenberg. Get out and about with this San Luis Obispo man and you'll be inspired to offer up a little home front help yourself.
Tenenberg used to have a pretty cool game room. That was long before his pool table became an assembly line.
"I haven't played pool in about 7 years." says Si as he watches and semi-supervises the chaos around him.
Si's home is now a staging area for a mission to get basic supplies to American troops.
"This group is from the Atascadero Quota...Quota International," he explains as I try to wrap my head around all the activity I'm seeing.
There are volunteers sorting boxes and boxes of basic supplies in the garage. Inside, they're filling up new mailing boxes, getting them taped and ready to go and filling out customs forms to go on the outside. Every Tuesday, a troop of volunteers works with military precision to get it all done. They pack and prepare 50 to 60 boxes weekly, getting them mail ready to be shipped overseas.
Over the last 7 years, they have prepared some 12-thousand boxes to send to the front lines in Afghanistan.
"Those are the guys that can't get supplies delivered because helicopters come in, get shot at. RPG's (Rocket propelled grenades) get fired at em." says Si as he explains how troops on the front lines often have to do without a lot because supply trains can't easily get to them.
"When women can't get hygiene supplies, what do they do?" he asks with a sense of urgency to get the supplies needed where they need to go.
Their commanders write to Si...explaining what they're in need of. PX stores and supply trains aren't always nearby or fully stocked. The emails contain lists that aren't that extravagant: toe nail clippers, pumice stones, foot powder, mirrors, pillow cases, air fresheners. I was a bit surprised to see hand and foot warmers on the lists of a few emails.
"Because they're freezing in the mountains." Si explains.
It can be either scorching hot or freezing cold in Afghanistan, and either way, a drop shipment from Si can make all the difference when you're dealing with the elements as well as the enemy.
One of the volunteers helping Si out on this day is Matt Reid, a marine who's served a few tours over in Afghanistan and runs his own organization, "Mind Over Matter" to help those dealing with Post Traumatic Stress upon their return.
"You know once you've worn your socks for the fifth time and you're just like, 'I'm not going to think about it, I'm just going to put them on and we're going to go.'" explains Reid, when talking about how helpful Si's deliveries can be. "Once you get that brand new, fresh, you know, never-been-worn socks...you smell 'em and they smell so good! It's the small things in life. You pull those socks on and your just like, 'Life is good right now. I'm good. Let's do this! Let's go on another 10-hour patrol."
The volunteers jam pack the boxes. And there's one thing they put in that doesn't take much room but makes a big difference. That's the letters, written by the volunteers, local school children and church congregations. Matt says they can really be spirit-lifters, especially from troops who may not have the most supportive families at home.
"Obviously they don't know who you are, and troops don't know who they are, but it doesn't matter because it's that small little ray of light in such a dark dark environment."
Si puts in about 60-hours a week. A 79-year-old military man himself, he feels it's his duty now in retirement.
"These are all volunteers. Every soldier, marine that's over in Afghanistan today or yesterday, or last year, they're all volunteers." You can hear the passion in Si's voice as he speaks. "Many are on their fourth or fifth tour!" he adds.
Matt says what Si does is more important than getting supplies to troops. It's letting them know they aren't forgotten.
"Unfortunately a lot of guys over there don't have amazing support behind them when they go." explains Matt. "What Si does, he provides that for them."
For Si, that's the inspiration. He wants the troops to know there are a lot of Americans who are aware every single day we still have troops who have left their lives here in the states behind, and are putting their mortality on the line daily on the front lines.
"I can't stop. I mean you read some of these emails...I mean when the guys say 'We need this.' or the email will say 'We desperately need this....' how do you not respond? I'm a Marine. I have a mission. And this is it now." he says.
It's a mission that may have rendered his pool table useless for calling 8-balls, but Si Tenenberg may in fact have the coolest game room in America.
So how can you help?
A) It's really easy if you visit a central coast Dollar Tree Store. Every one in San Luis Obispo County has a box set up and when you cash out you're asked if you'd like to buy a product for the troops in Afghanistan. Those donations are what end up a Si's house.
B) Money. Si buys things he can't get from the Dollar Tree stores with monetary donations. He buys t-shirts, underwear and socks in bulk and sends them over. You can send a cash donation to Si. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can visit his website by clicking here. Or give him a call at (805) 234-3101.
C) Postage. This may be where the biggest need is. Every week Si and his troops box up 40-50 boxes to be shipped, but they would do a lot more. However, each box costs $15.45 to ship. They're ready to go. He just needs people to grab some and take them to the post office and pay that postage. Local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs already help out but they could use more volunteers stepping up like this.
You can do that easy by stopping by the KSBY studios in Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo between 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. tonight (February 18th) and pick up one or ten from Si, Matt, myself or volunteers. They're ready to go, you just have to stop by your local post office and pay the postage.
Or you can email a check to the U.S. Postal Service and send it to us here at KSBY: 1772 Calle Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, CA 93405.
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