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Rotarians organizing Operation Care

Air Force civil engineer Dave W. Konshok is rallying troops on the home front to aid a mission in Afghanistan: Making children smile.

Lt. Col. Konshok, Comander of the 577th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (BEEF) at Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan, recently arrived home on emergency leave after his mother, Irene, was hospitalized.

She has since recovered and was discharged from the hospital. Konshok will soon depart for Afghanistan to continue work - from the engineering to actual building of roads, housing and infrastructure - but not before having enlisted the aid of local Rotarians.

The Park Rapids Rotary Club is spearheading a drive to collect items for children and cash for service members via Operation Care.

Operation Care is a volunteer charitable organization established by U.S. military deployed to the Bagram Air Base. The site is home to 35,000 U.S. soldiers, coalition forces from approximately 30 countries and civilians, Konshok explained.

"I was pleasantly surprised to see this in place," he said of the initiative that originated a couple of years ago as a means to distribute donations.

The mission serves two purposes - to collect donations and assemble care packages for military members deployed to Afghanistan and to provide donated goods to local Afghan families that visit the sprawling international base for healthcare at one of the hospitals, which are Egyptian-run.

Konshok is among members of his unit who volunteer time distributing donations outside the hospital. He's found the recipients to be "very, very appreciative."

Konshok's son, Matt, 13, is on board with the endeavor, his collection of Hot Wheels now bound for the mountainous country in south-central Asia.

"This is a very local organization," Konshok emphasized. The current president, Major Susan Kennedy, is his deputy commander.

The Park Rapids Rotary Club has agreed to participate in the international project, with the Patrick Sullivan Insurance Agency on Highway 71 South and the Park Rapids Enterprise on Henrietta Avenue North the drop off points for children's items through Jan. 1.

Konshok advises keeping the size of items to a minimum, for shipping purposes.

At 5,000 feet above sea level, the winters are similar to Nevada or Utah, Konshok said. There is not a lot of snow, but temperatures dip to the 30s and 40s.

Cash donations will be used to purchase hygiene and other items that will be distributed to service members in remote bases in Afghanistan, boosting morale.

Checks may be sent to Park Rapids Rotary, Operation Care, PO Box 704, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

For more information on the initiative, go to