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Lodi’s Tara Phillips needs help with Totes for Troops project

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Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:00 am, Mon Jul 2, 2012.

Tara Phillips is in a little over her head. Her brother has more friends than she thought.

Phillips' younger brother, James Tecklenburg, is currently serving a 9-month tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Army, working as a cook.

Tecklenburg shipped out to Afghanistan at the end of May. Since then, he's traded recipes with his family for steak dinners and brownie desserts, though they have to be scaled down to family size.

"He's proud that now he can cook," said Phillips. "It was all frozen burritos in high school."

Tecklenburg graduated from Lodi High School in 2008, and he enlisted in the Army this year.

As a small gesture to express her appreciation for his hard work and sacrifice, Phillips came up with a plan to send care packages to his unit and called it Totes for Troops.

But when Phillips logged onto Facebook two weeks ago, there was a message from her brother. Instead of 25 enlisted men and women in his unit, there are 100.

As a result, Phillips has more work to do. She could use some help.

"I just can't bring myself to donate 25 when I know there's 100 guys or girls serving with him," said Phillips.

She's packing up camouflage-print thermal lunch totes emblazoned with "Thank you!" and "USA HERO" with snacks, treats and travel-size toiletries to send to her brother's unit.

So far, family and friends have donated enough bulk packages of fruit cups, granola bars and other items to fill up 25 packs. Miniature Gideon Bibles with camouflage covers were also donated. Members of Faith Community Church, where Phillips attends, have contributed, too.

For a $25 donation, she can purchase the lunch-box tote, embroider it, and fill it with goodies. Donors can write a note of thanks to send with the tote.

She's saving up her sales commissions from selling tote bags through 31 Gifts, a direct sales company out of Ohio, to pay for shipping all 100 totes.

The extra effort will be worth it, she said.

"This is just a little something. I'm so thankful they're out there serving for me, for my family," she said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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