GORHAM – Operation Tribute, based in donated Gorham warehouse space, is shipping 34,000 gift boxes this year to children in military families.

Marc Badeau, a business consultant, founded the operation five years ago to remember children in families whose parents are on duty.

“Holidays are the toughest times for these kids,” Badeau said Monday.

Each child, newborn to age 16, receives a package with a toy and a book, along with a hand-written letter, many from students in the Gorham schools. The gift boxes are individually wrapped and decorated with yellow ribbons.

The gifts are being sent to children throughout New England states, plus with New York, New Jersey and Ohio.

“We’ve never had to turn anyone away,” Badeau said.

Badeau hopes the program goes national in five years. Military families can apply on the Operation Tribute website.

Operation Tribute has already sent a truck loaded with 1,400 gift boxes to families based at Fort Drum in New York.

Operation Tribute has a force of 450 volunteers who wrap and package at its headquarters on Sanford Drive in Gorham Industrial Park.

Volunteers include his wife Margo, and their children Crystal Badeau and Jason Badeau working alongside many hands, including those from local corporations. Even Sasha, 2, the Badeau family dog, was on duty Monday at the headquarters greeting visitors.

Waiting to be processed, thousands of U.S. Postal Service boxes were stacked in the operation’s Gorham headquarters. They’ll be shipped by priority mail.

As president of the local Kiwanis Club, Badeau launched the operation in 2007 when 8,000 gifts were sent to families in 140 Maine communities.

Last year, Operation Tribute provided 32,000 gift boxes.

This year, the crew is busily trying to get all the boxes out the door by Saturday, Dec. 15. Volunteers listen to Christmas music while they wrap, and munch on pizza and drink coffee and soda.

All gifts are provided through donations and all workers are volunteers.

Operation Tribute depends on individual donors and corporate sponsors. This year, Badeau said, 528 Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with Operation Tribute in a fundraiser.

Badeau said this week that he was moved to launch the operation because very little was being done for the kids of military families.

Operation Tribute founder Marc Badeau of Gorham is surrounded by boxes waiting to be filled with presents for kids in military families. The organization will ship out 34,000 packages by mid December to kids in nine states.    

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