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updated: 9/4/2013 9:49 AM

Founders to shut down Palatine's Yellow Ribbon Support Group

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  • Video: Care Package Effort to Cease

  • Hoffman Estates native Justin Sher, third from left, and his fellow Marines stand in front of a wooden structure (or SWA Hut) they built outside Haditha, Iraq. The care packages from the Palatine-based Yellow Ribbon Support Group kept the group going in the remote areas of their missions.

      Hoffman Estates native Justin Sher, third from left, and his fellow Marines stand in front of a wooden structure (or SWA Hut) they built outside Haditha, Iraq. The care packages from the Palatine-based Yellow Ribbon Support Group kept the group going in the remote areas of their missions.
    Courtesy of Justin Sher

  • Hoffman Estates native Justin Sher, second from left, and his fellow Marines get dirty repairing broken runways to be combat-ready in northern Iraq. The mission was in a desolate area with no showers and few supplies, so the group brought with them items they received in care packages from the Yellow Ribbon Support Group.

      Hoffman Estates native Justin Sher, second from left, and his fellow Marines get dirty repairing broken runways to be combat-ready in northern Iraq. The mission was in a desolate area with no showers and few supplies, so the group brought with them items they received in care packages from the Yellow Ribbon Support Group.
    Courtesy of Justin Sher

  • Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Pat McCoy of Palatine looks over the remaining supply of Girl Scout cookies donated for troops overseas. She and husband Mac McCoy are shutting down the nonprofit organization after more than 10 years.

       Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Pat McCoy of Palatine looks over the remaining supply of Girl Scout cookies donated for troops overseas. She and husband Mac McCoy are shutting down the nonprofit organization after more than 10 years.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Pat McCoy of Palatine sorts through the remaining supply of Beanie Babies that have been sent to American troops who give them to children they encounter overseas. She and husband Mac McCoy are shutting down the nonprofit organization after more than 10 years.

       Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Pat McCoy of Palatine sorts through the remaining supply of Beanie Babies that have been sent to American troops who give them to children they encounter overseas. She and husband Mac McCoy are shutting down the nonprofit organization after more than 10 years.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Mac McCoy unloads care packages at the Palatine post office to be shipped to troops in Afghanistan.

       Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Mac McCoy unloads care packages at the Palatine post office to be shipped to troops in Afghanistan.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • The Yellow Ribbon Support Group has three-ring binders filled with thank-you letters from troops who have received care boxes over the past 10 years.

       The Yellow Ribbon Support Group has three-ring binders filled with thank-you letters from troops who have received care boxes over the past 10 years.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Mac McCoy unloads care packages at the Palatine post office to be shipped to troops in Afghanistan.

       Yellow Ribbon Support Group co-founder Mac McCoy unloads care packages at the Palatine post office to be shipped to troops in Afghanistan.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 

It's mission accomplished for Pat and Mac McCoy.

The Palatine couple recently decided that after assembling more than 28,000 care packages for overseas troops, the time has come to shut down the Yellow Ribbon Support Group.

"We're very proud of what we've done," Pat McCoy said. "But it's time."

The McCoys never imagined that sending snacks and toiletries to their son's 12-man Army Special Forces team in Iraq would snowball into a 10-year endeavor that the community would embrace and some 40 volunteers would support.

But the April 2003 gesture proved so uplifting to Green Beret and Staff Sgt. Rick McCoy and his fellow soldiers that the Palatine couple hoped to do the same for others during deployment.

The McCoys came up with a pretty simple concept for Yellow Ribbon that also gave the nonprofit organization visibility. After volunteers secured the items and put together the care packages, they'd distribute the boxes at various festivals and church events for individuals to pick up, take to the post office and pay for shipping.

Palatine Police Chief John Koziol and administrative assistant Kathy Garcia, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, set up the group in a room in village hall that for years housed the task force investigating the Brown's Chicken murders. The department also sent juveniles sentenced to community service through its peer jury program to help assemble the packages.

With troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan quickly escalating, the operation took off.

Pat McCoy said a few factors led to their decision to stop.

For one, donations have dropped off significantly in the past couple of years. Her attempt to solicit corporations and other groups through a letter campaign yielded just one response. McCoy blames the economy but acknowledged support has waned with the continued withdrawal of American troops.

Exactly where the group would continue to package and store supplies was about to be an issue as well. Palatine's village hall likely will undergo a major renovation next year, and Yellow Ribbon takes up three rooms there.

The work also has taken a physical toll. Both Pat and Mac McCoy are in their 70s and spend at least three to four days a week on Yellow Ribbon.

"Mac has been fighting cancer for 19 years," Pat said. "He's doing fine, but I don't want to push it. My husband and I are tired."

The organization keeps several three-ring binders filled with thank-you notes from servicemen and servicewomen who've received the care boxes.

One of the regular recipients was Hoffman Estates native Justin Sher, a U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq and more than a year in Okinawa, Japan. Parents Keith and Kathy Sher started volunteering with Yellow Ribbon after Justin went to boot camp eight years ago as a way of feeling closer to him. The 2005 Schaumburg High School graduate said the snacks were a comforting reminder of home while the toiletries proved useful during missions in desolate areas with few supplies and no showers.

"It was like Christmas morning when we got the mail call and (Yellow Ribbon) had sent me five or six packages to distribute to the rest of the platoon," said Sher, who's now in school to become an accountant. "Everyone is extremely grateful to have people back home who were willing to put in time and money from their pocket to help."

Pat McCoy said Yellow Ribbon's final box distributions will take place next month at St. Theresa Parish in Palatine and in November at St. Hubert Parish in Hoffman Estates. She's finding ways to donate remaining supplies, such as giving leftover Girl Scout cookies to area police and fire departments.

"The village of Palatine has been so wonderful and our volunteers have become family," she said. "It's been a struggle lately, but I think we've done a great job."

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