OUTREACH A Slippery Rock Township woman volunteers her time to collect used books and send them servicemen and women overseas.

A Slippery Rock Township woman is doing her part to bring comfort to American servicemen and women overseas.

Operation Paperback is a nonprofit grassroots program that collects gently used books and sends them to troops deployed overseas.

Michelle Craig discovered the organization on the Internet and has been collecting and sending books ever since.

"I collect the books, pack and mail them and report back to Operation Paperback about how many and when they were sent," said Craig, who is looking for others to lend a hand.

"Our service members make sacrifices every day for our country. It takes so little to let them know we appreciate what they are doing."

Operation Paperback began in 1999 when the late Chief Master Sgt. Rick Honeywell was deployed for four months in Kuwait and found himself on a base that had no recreation facilities, no movies, no library and no gymnasium.

Honeywell's wife, Chrissy, and other Air Force spouses responded by sending care packages of candy, games and books. Chrissy's father began collecting books and soon had cases to send and that was the beginning of Operation Paperback.

Since then, more than 300,000 books have been donated.

Honeywell died of cancer in November of 2002 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He continues to serve as an inspiration to those who knew him and for the volunteers of Operation Paperback.

Books requested range from action, bestsellers, biographies and memoirs to fantasy, history, horror, mysteries, science fiction and true crime.

Books must be in very good condition. Books that have loose, brittle or missing pages, stains or water damage will not be accepted.

The Internet site says it does not accept books without front covers that are called stripped books.

People, who have books to donate, must read the guidelines carefully. The Department of Defense policy prohibits the distribution of materials that are sexually oriented or racist.

All books going to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other predominately Muslim countries must not show any female skin from the neck to the knees either on the cover or inside. The organization has non-Middle East addresses for books that do not conform to these standards.

Books are shipped to many places including, Bosnia, Korea, Italy, Iceland, Japan, Turkey, Navy ships at sea and military hospitals.

Volunteers like Craig take care of the collecting, packaging and mailing. Anyone interested in reading more about Operation Paperback can go to their Web site, www.operationpaperback.org. You can also learn how to be a volunteer or make a monetary donation.

Dale Perry, chief of advertising and public affairs for the United States Army, said that many service personnel are avid readers and it is a blessing to themto receive books.

"It means a lot and it shows how much Americans are supporting them."

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