REED CITY — After receiving boxes of books shipped from the United States, a grateful unit of U.S. Marines stationed overseas built a bookshelf to hold their new reading material.

“I want to give a personal thank you on behalf of the soldiers in my unit for your donation,” wrote a U.S. Marine in a thank-you letter to Reed City resident Jerry Minier, who sent a box of books through the Books for Soldiers program. “Thank you for helping to improve our situation over here.”

To help make a difference in the lives of those serving the country, the Reed City Library began donating their books and participating in the Books for Soldiers program in May. Minier brought the idea to the library after participating in the program herself.

“My idea behind all of this was to get our library and our town involved in these soldiers’ lives because they are making a sacrifice by being away from home,” Minier said. “When they’re on duty their lives are at stake. When they’re off duty they’re inside, waiting until it’s time to go on duty again. These books make such a difference.”

Since the library began participating in the project, 10 boxes of books have been shipped to U.S. soldiers overseas. Each box was sponsored by individuals from the community.

“We have had new people coming in the library just to adopt boxes,” said Reed City Library director Heather Symon. “We’ve also had some people with prior armed forces service who come in and ask about it.”

The library packages two flat-rate boxes which are available for adoption each month. The library supplies the books to send out of their stock of donated and used books. By donating $13.45 per box, individuals can support a box to be sent to any number of armed forces bases around the world.

Through the Books for Soldiers program, service personnel post requests on www.booksforsoldiers.com. They specify the types of books their unit would like to read. The library chooses the recipient group based on which book requests they are able to fill from their stock.

“We have plenty of books to be able to do this with,” Symon said. ‘We’ve been able to send (up to) 25 (books in one box).”

While books keep soldiers occupied during down time, overseas units also are in need of general hygeine and household items. The library accepts donations for items such as hand wipes, batteries, dental floss, mouth wash and other necessities to include in boxes with the books.

Along with filling the literary and day-to-day needs of service personnel overseas, some people who sponsor boxes at the library also send letters to the units.

“We encourage (sponsors) to include a card or a letter,” Symon said. “When you write a letter, you can include your contact information and a lot times people end up with a pen pal.”

Minier was thrilled when she received a letter back from a Marine. She chose the Marines to send books to herself because many members of her family have served in the corp. in the past.

If other individuals want to send a box of books, they can choose which group they would like it to go to.

“If they have a soft spot in their heart for Marines, it can go to the Marines,” Minier said. “They can choose any branch of the service that they want to send it to. I don’t think the war is going to end right away, so let’s do it as long as we can.”

People who want to send their own books can do so by visiting www.booksforsoldiers.com and choose a request to fulfill. Those interested in participating in the library’s program can visit the Reed City Library, located at 410 West Upton Avenue in Reed City.