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Special Delivery: Helping Soldiers Play Santa

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For the Durfees, FCH is a family affair—it's even based in their home. Vickie's husband, Jim, 53, an architect, helped design the Web site. Their daughter, Andrea, 26, assists with data entry. Their youngest, Archie, 20, organized a dodgeball tournament when he was in high school to raise funds. At Gil and Ashley's wedding this past summer, Marines from Gil's squad thanked Vickie in person. Vickie pays for the gifts and materials up front out of her own pocket—she orders the beauty products at cost through her position at Mary Kay—with the hope she'll collect enough to reimburse herself. (The organization is currently exploring nonprofit status.) She keeps her regular Mary Kay orders and FCH orders separate; commissions she receives from Full Circle Home orders go directly back into the organization. (Mary Kay does not donate money or products, or offer a discount.)

Vickie keeps two lists: One for soldiers who request a present, another for donors who want to sponsor one. Then she matches them up. Each gift costs about $75, and sometimes a box will be paid for by three or four small sponsor donations. "So many of these guys can't believe someone would do this for them," Vickie says.

Save for a few big-ticket donors, such as a local bank, the majority of FCH's funding comes from small individual donations. "In this economy everyone is fighting for the same dollars," says Lisa. "We just keep trying to get more and more creative." That means throwing wrap parties (BYO tape and pizza), hosting Christmas and Mother's Day shopping bazaars where the proceeds go to FCH, guest bartending at local bars, and placing collection cans in stores.

The presents have evolved since the first one Vickie sent Ashley. Each set starts with a hand-sewn tissue holder donated by Girl Scouts. "Everyone tells me they cry when they open the gifts," Vickie says. It also includes chocolate, body wash, cleanser, lotion, hand cream, mascara, eye shadow, and lipgloss. The last gift is always a fragrance, and there's also a note that reveals the sponsor of the box. Often, when a woman receives a gift, she contacts her benefactor—typically a stranger—and decides to donate time or money to FCH. And so the cycle continues. "I forward the thank-you letters from the women to the underwriters," Vickie says. "And that's the circle—the connection."

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