Package Deal -- Oakland Bar Association pitches in for Iraq effort


By Tom Kirvan

Legal News
Mike Schloff, as a Marine captain and combat veteran of Vietnam, has an understandable soft spot in his heart for those “in the thick of duty” overseas, serving the U.S. in the war zone hot spots of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I know how important it is to get a letter from home or a gift package,” said Schloff, past president of the Oakland County Bar Association. “It can mean the world when you’re far away from home and in harm’s way.”
So when Schloff, in his role as chair of the Veterans Committee for the OCBA, heard about Operation Iraq Pac, a project launched in 2004 to send “care packages” to U.S. troops in the Mideast, it more than piqued his interest in helping out.
“This effort involves the collection of items and goods for members of our military currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Schloff, an attorney in Bloomfield Hills. “The drive involves not only the collection of specific items, but also the collection of cash contributions for the purchase of additional items on the checklist. All of these items will be collected through March 15.”
The OCBA is teaming with Cooley Law School, the Washtenaw County Bar Association, and Ford/UAW Retirees in the collection effort. The OCBA has collection points at its office on Telegraph Road and in the Lawyer’s Lounge at the Oakland County Circuit Court. Items needed include magazines, books, personal hygiene products, T-shirts, socks, gloves, sunglasses, food and snack goods, phone cards, music CDs, pillows, blankets, and the like. A complete list is available at the OCBA.
“The OCBA will widely publicize the effort through its Web site and e-mail blasts, and I have personally issued challenges to all of our 30 committees at the OCBA for contributions,” Schloff said.
Each member of the OCBA’s Veterans Committee, 25 in all, has pledged at least a $25 cash contribution, according to Schloff.
“That’s a minimum of $625 in cash contributions from one committee alone, so if we can get others to do likewise, we will be able to make a significant contribution to this effort,” Schloff said.
Since its inception in 2004, the Iraq Pac project has grown markedly, according to Barb Grasso, a Ford Motor Co. retiree who now coordinates the multi-pronged effort.
“It started by shipping care packages to one Marine, who was the brother of one of our co-workers at Ford,” said Grasso, who retired from the automaker three years ago. “It just started mushrooming from there. Now we are supporting a squadron of Marines in Afghanistan, all the U.S. forces passing through Camp Stryker in Iraq, and an Army medevac unit in Iraq. We have churches, schools, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, businesses, and veteran groups involved with us. It’s been amazing to see this thing grow.”
Over the past six years, nearly 650 care packages have been sent overseas, weighing more than 9 tons, “costing over $21,000 to ship” and “gifts valued at over $61,000 to support our troops,” according to Grasso.
Volunteers will gather to prepare the next mass shipment on March 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ford National Parts Distribution Center in Livonia, Grasso indicated. The shipping process will be repeated at least two more times this year, she said. 
“Our young heroes appreciate every gift and every letter we pack in our care packages,” Grasso said. “It’s not the number of boxes we ship, but the love we pack in each of our care packages that bring smiles to our deployed friends.”