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Milestone for group sending supplies to troops

 As Dorine Kenney stood amid stacks of donated supplies she planned to send to U.S. soldiers fighting overseas - boxes of warm socks, packs of disposable razors, bags of beef jerky and jars of Nutella spread - a volunteer helping her pack handed her his cell phone.

On the line was the volunteer's son, an Army platoon leader calling from Afghanistan to thank Kenney for having sent portable heaters last month to help gird his men against the coming winter.

"What you see here are the things he needs," said the volunteer, Thomas Mattos, of East Northport. "Things that make him feel a little more at home."

Kenney's organization - the Jacob's Light Foundation - has been sending all sorts of supplies to battlefield troops - from snacks, to warm socks, to sanitary supplies and portable heaters - since her son was killed seven years ago in Iraq. This is her way of remembering and honoring her son. Her group has become perhaps the largest of its kind on Long Island sending much needed supplies to American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Monday, at an American Legion hall in Brentwood, the Middle Island resident sealed a 30-pound box that pushed the total her organization has collected for troops since 2003 to the 400,000-pound mark.

"What motivates me is knowing they need support from home," said Kenney, whose son, Spc. Jacob Fletcher, died in a Nov. 13, 2003, roadside bombing. "When I'm getting into a warm bed every night but know they are out in the cold, that keeps me going."

Organizations from one end of Long Island to the other do similar drives for troops.

One, Operation Veronica, has about a dozen women, including some who lug sewing machines and pressing irons, who meet Fridays at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Rocky Point. They make fleece neck warmers and other handmade articles to send to American soldiers. They also weave "survival bracelets" from parachute cord, which can be unraveled and used for emergency repairs.

So far, the group has shipped nearly 20,000 handmade items, said Janet Godfrey, who founded Operation Veronica six years ago. "We've been told it's been used for everything from holding up the ridgeline of a tent to fixing a boot," Godfrey said of the survival bracelets.

Now having reached the 400,000-pound mark, Kenney's organization appears to be the Island's largest such operation, several veterans groups say. Mattos said his son e-mailed him last month to say members of his platoon longed for civilian comforts found in supermarkets and department stores.

"That put me on a mission to get him what he needed," Mattos said.

Mattos said he contacted Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who referred him to Kenney.

As she packed boxes Monday, Kenney said the surprise phone call from Mattos's son - Lt. Christopher Mattos, 22, an Army Ranger and a West Point graduate - left her elated.

Lt. Mattos was just deployed to Afghanistan in August.

"Look at the smile on my face," she said. "It just warms my heart to know this hero felt the support from us."


What's packed in Kenny's packages


Emergency coagulant bandages used to stem bleeding.

Electric cookware and a heavy-duty electrical transformer to allow one unit in Afghanistan to set up a portable kitchen at a forward operating base.

"Silly String" aerosol, which troops spray to check for booby-trap trip wires.

Unscented deodorant for soldiers on patrol who do not want their presence announced.

Vacuum-packed salami, for a taste of home.

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