2,500 and out for Prestwood's shoebox campaign

Bucks Free Press: Prestwood WI members hand over the 2,500th shoebox to postmistress Rimple Mehta Prestwood WI members hand over the 2,500th shoebox to postmistress Rimple Mehta

THE 2,500th and final welfare shoebox for British troops serving in Afghanistan left Prestwood Post Office this week.

Members of the village's two Women's Institutes have spent the last six years filling boxes with goodies to send out to soldiers stationed in the Middle East.

But with hostilities starting to draw to a close, the Prestwood Afternoon and Evening WIs decided the time was right to pack in the packing up.

The final package contained a box of Mr Kipling's cakes, peanuts, toothpaste, Tracker bars, jelly babies and some Mini Cheddars - along with a handwritten note that goes into every box.

Campaign co-ordinator Val Corteen said: "We've had hundreds of letters back - I've kept them all in an enormous shoebox. They've all said it's boosted morale greatly to know people back home are thinking of them.

"I've had a long list of people who've written and said 'I'm coming home in three weeks and my replacement will be...' That hasn't happened in the last month or so. Those who are going out are doing so for two or three weeks, so fingers crossed they will be home later on."

Some of the goodies for the boxes have been provided by members of the Hazlemere WI and Mrs Corteen said: "We couldn't have done it without everyone's help. Everybody has been wonderful - it's brought on a bit of a community spirit."

In the past members have added slices of homemade fruitcake to go in the boxes, along with flip flops and t shirts for injured soldiers in Camp Bastion Hospital to wear after their combat uniform gets cut off so surgery can be performed.

The only things not sent out are chocolate, which melts in the extreme desert heat, and marzipan - which is detected by sniffer dogs as a form of explosive.

The Prestwood WI members haven't had too many unusual requests for items to be packed into the boxes though.

Mrs Corteen said: "They've asked for long handled spoons because when they are out on combat in the desert their food is in pouches and they can never get to the bottom. They've also asked for paintbrushes so they can clean their guns. Those two stick in my mind."

Members gathered at the Post Office on Thursday to witness the final box being handed over to postmistress Rimple Mehta.

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