Niles woman launches Operation Pass It On!

Published 12:33 am Saturday, April 5, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- It took her two days just to come up with the name, but with an idea this good, the wait was probably worthwhile.
Yvonne McKenzie, who moved from Killeen, Texas, in 1998 and now lives of Old U.S. 31 in Niles, on the way to Berrien Springs, has started what she calls "Operation Pass It On!"
The former chief accountant at a Benton Harbor car-dealership, who has been unable to work since she was involved in a car accident in 1999, recently decided it was time for her to do something for America's soldiers.
McKenzie said family members who don't have internet access can send her letters or fax her the information they want sent to their deployed family member.
She will then type up the letters and send them through her e-mail account to the respective soldier.
McKenzie said it's really important for the soldiers to hear from people back home here in the United States.
And she knows, having lived close to Fort Hood, Texas, during the first Gulf War.
McKenzie hopes people will trust her with sending of their words of comfort through her, but she realizes some people might be afraid to go through an unknown person to reach a loved one.
Pentagon and other military branch officials, however, OK'd her project before she started it.
Several people with no ties to deployed soldiers have already offered their assistance as typists.
Tuesday, she set up a post office box in a process of getting herself ready to receive letters from people who want to have an e-mail sent to their service member.
Nonetheless, she is hoping to get as much coverage and attention from the media as possible to make people aware of her service.
The TV station WNDU, South Bend Ind., ran her story earlier this week and she is hoping wire services will jump on the story, too.
Having been a guest at a South Bend Ind., radio talk-show has already shown her the media exposure has so far helped her getting the message across.
When she came home from the radio show Friday and checked her e-mail, there were 15 new messages while six others had contacted her by fax.
There will be some costs with running the service, but McKenzie is willing to take on those costs herself.
She did say, however, that people wanting to donate stamps and legal size envelopes would be welcome to do so, but she won't receive any monetary contributions.
She reminds the people who send her their letters and faxes, however, that a quick response from any service member is unlikely, and no one should be concerned it they don't get a reply.
If she receives a message back from a soldier, it will be printed and mailed immediately to the addressee listed on the letter.
She said response instructions will be included with every message she sends to any soldier, just in case he or she can reply.
To ensure privacy, only one person will have access to each message and once it has been sent it will be destroyed, she said.