When Susan Whetzel's cousin was deployed to Iraq last year, she decided to boost his morale by sending him a taste of home.
A blogger who details her kitchen adventures at doughmesstic.com, Susan called on her fellow foodies in cyberspace to make some home-baked treats for her cousin—U.S. Army Captain Jason Ballard (right)—and his comrades. Figuring he'd get four or five boxes of cookies, bars and trail mix to share, Susan was stunned to hear he got 60 boxes!
Since that day in July 2008, Operation Baking GALS (Give A Little Support) has launched its own Web site, bakinggals.com, and has grown by leaps and bounds. Bakers visit the site to search through the list of soldiers eagerly awaiting goodies. They select a soldier to host and then get baking!
Once a month, the bloggers/bakers, both amateur and professional, make treats and ship them to deployed troops. Other blogging bakers are good about promoting Operation Baking GALS on their own sites, which has helped spread the word.
"It's impossible to tell how many people have baked for Operation Baking GALS," says Susan, who lives in Pearisburg, VA. "We have around 1,000 registered users, but since one person registers and others usually help her bake, we estimate that more than 10,000 people have participated so far."
The Web site gets countless letters from the soldiers showing their appreciation for the heartfelt homemade goodies.
"In a combat environment, it's easy to forget about all the good things back home that we are fighting for over here," Jason wrote. "Because of your homemade treats, we are reminded of the good things in life."
Susan has gotten a lot out of volunteering time and energy to this 21st-century cause. "More than anything, I've gained such respect for the bakers," she says. " I never expected the response I got. It's possible that every troop in Iraq has tasted a Baking GALS cookie by now!"
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