Treats for Troops wants you and your baking skills this weekend as the group gears up for Operation Bake-off.

The organization will be holding a special Valentine’s themed edition of its original Christmas campaign to send homemade treats and goodies to Ellis County soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan

“We had such a great response from the Christmas campaign that we are ready to do it again,” said Harriett Adams, who along with fellow members of First Christian Church of Ennis will be baking all day this Saturday to help fill boxes with special reminders that people around the county are grateful for the efforts of not only the hometown heroes but all who serve.

“Regardless of anyone’s personal view on the war, we can still be mindful that the men and women serving are in extreme conditions and that a box of goodies from home goes a long way to lifting their spirits and keeping morale high,” Adams said.

As the driving force behind the project, Adams said she got involved after witnessing how her cousin and many Vietnam veterans were treated after coming back home.

“We can’t let the same thing happen to the people over there that happened to our Vietnam vets. We don’t understand the hardships they face and we must respect and be thankful for all that they do,” she said. “Their presence over there means that some other child from Ennis may not have to go, so we’re asking everyone to get involved and bake some cookies to say thanks.”

The cookie campaign was chosen for its simplicity as much as for the joy it brings the soldiers. Adams said she thought that baking supplies were something most people would have around their kitchen, so even if people didn’t have time to go to the store and buy the items the soldiers request, they could take a few minutes and make a batch of cookies.

“Make it a family event, get the kids together and make cookies to send to the soldiers,” Adams said. “It doesn’t take that much time and it really means so much to the people receiving them. We have heard back from some of the soldiers who say they appreciated every crumb.”

Treats for Troops has received letters from soldiers thanking the group for its efforts.

“It is so humbling to receive these letters of thanks,” Adams said. “We received one letter from a man that said when he opened his box it was like it had been packed by someone who had been there, so that makes us feel good because it means we have been listening and paying attention to what they have told us they need.”

The flat rate boxes, which are available for free at any post office, can be filled to whatever weight the sender prefers and are sent for $8.10 per box. After being shipped, the boxes make it to Baghdad in five days; however, it does take a little longer for the troops stationed in the desert or rural locations to receive theirs.

“We have been told that as soon as the boxes are opened, the soldiers share the contents with everyone around them, so not only do we get to send treats to our hometown soldiers, we get to extend greetings and gratitude to strangers as well,” Adams said.

The boxes are sent with a personal note from the group and anyone who donates items to the operation is encouraged to send along his or her own personal greetings if desired. The group depends on family members and friends to supply addresses of the hometown soldiers but will also fill boxes with goodies that get sent to entire platoons.

“We get requests from company commanders that know of soldiers that do not have anyone sending them mail or treats so we mail boxes full of items that the commander then distributes so no one gets left out,” Adams said.

To ensure that the treats are not crushed when they reach the recipient, the group sends them in regular size, 13-ounce coffee cans or chip cans. The cans fit inside the flat rate boxes and still leave room for other items to be shipped as well. Treats for Troops collects coffee cans and if anyone wishes to contribute to the campaign but doesn’t have a can to ship the cookies in, the group will pack the cookies in cans they have.

“Don’t let anything stop you from bringing baked goods,” Adams said. “If people bring the items, we will find something to ship them in.”

In an effort to make the boxes as personal as possible, every Ennis ISD campus and St. John Catholic School are making Valentines to send to the troops.

“We are so proud of the kids for taking an interest in this project and the schools for supporting it,” Adams said.

Members of the Ennis High School Student Council issued a challenge to the other classes to bring in items for the boxes, with the winning class receiving a pizza party.

Treats for Troops will be set up at the First Christian church of Ennis at 805 W. Baldridge from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20.

“We will have reveille at nine and taps at five,” Adams said with a laugh.

The group encourages everyone to bring homemade or store bought items to the church for drop off and welcomes any donations. All cash donations are used to pay for postage and every donation, big or small, is appreciated.

The Treats for Troops group was able to send 125 boxes to the soldiers during the Christmas campaign and is hoping to beat its current record with the Valentine’s campaign.

Needed items include:

Toiletries - small package of disposable razors and shaving cream, toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste, lip balm and tubes of sun screen, deodorants, small packages of Tylenol and Advil, baby wipes, hand creams and moisturizers, shampoo and conditioners (hotel/motel size are perfect) and eye drops. Pack all soap items in baggies to keep food items from tasting soapy.

Snack/Food Items - Canned meats (no pork), sealed beef jerky, canned chips or salty snacks in cans, can or cello sleeve peanuts, homemade cookies (must be packed in coffee or chip cans), hard candy (no chocolate), packaged snack cakes, crackers and tuna/chicken.

Plastic zip lock bags are essential to keep everything protected from daily conditions.

Entertainment Items - crossword or sudoku puzzle books, foam footballs, writing pads and pens, paperbacks, westerns, comedies (no war books) and small handheld electronic games with batteries.