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Cape business owner helps make holidays merrier for troops in Iraq

By Staff | Nov 30, 2008

In a sputtering economy many consumers are cutting back on expenses this holiday season, but customers and staff of the Sip & Send Wine and Gift Shoppe in Cape Coral found room in their budgets to send care packages to troops in Iraq.
Sip & Send owner Jonette Kessack and her staff help package and send more than 200 boxes full of snacks, (nonalcoholic) drinks, toiletries, and other items Saturday to the U.S. Army’s 51st Transport Company in Iraq.
The number of boxes dwarfed last year’s number of 44 boxes, and Kessack was pleased to see the outpouring of support in tough economic times.
“I’m extremely surprised. We started out thinking if we beat last year’s goal, that would be awesome, then we said maybe we could do 100 (boxes) and we ended up with 200,” Kessack said.
“People that really have nothing are taking the boxes home and filling them up,” she added.
Walk-in customers helped support the effort with donations, but the major push came from a Nov. 15 fund-raiser. A silent auction held at the Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens in Matlacha raised about $1,600.
There were upscale prizes at the auction – a three day, two night package at Sanibel Harbor was auctioned off – but people mainly wanted to support a worthy cause, Kessack said.
“A $40 gift certificate to Carrabba’s went for $50,” she said.
Kessack said the cost to send the packages was about $2,300, and her store made up the difference.
Some of Kessack’s staff worked off the clock Saturday to get the packages out.
Patti Iles, a three-year staffer at the store, said people realize how important it is to give to soldiers despite the current economic conditions.
“They just know how bad it is over there. The economy is bad here but it’s worse over there,” Iles said.
“We brought in whatever we could and topped the boxes off for people that couldn’t fill them,” staffer Jessica Tidwell said.
Sip & Send, located on Santa Barbara Boulevard just north of Veterans Parkway, is uniquely situated to send items overseas. A post office is located in the back of the store.
Kessack plans to send more packages next year, but hopes they will go to a different squadron. The 51st was deployed to Iraq in June for their third tour of duty there.
“Hopefully these guys will be home next year and we’ll have to find another troupe,” she said.