On Saturday, as they do each month, Dalby and her husband, Tony
Dalby, invite community members to their home to make care packages
for American military personnel.
The Dalbys are the Orange County coordinators for the Costa Mesa
chapter of Operation Interdependence, a national nonprofit that
facilitates these service projects.
The program was started by Retired Marine Corps Chief Warrant
Officer Albert Renteria, who, while in active service, handled
donations sent to troops.
Thirteen states have chapters of Operation Independence, Taffy
Dalby said. The idea is to get troops the items they need without
causing the military logistical problems.
As Taffy explained, troops often don't receive care packages sent
by civilian groups because there is no one on the ground in Iraq to
inspect and distribute the goods.
"It broke our hearts that people donate stuff that never got where
it's supposed to go," she said.
In this program, everything is inspected before being sent
overseas. Each month, the Costa Mesa chapter generates about 500 care
packages, filled primarily with food, office supplies and personal
The Dalbys drive the boxes to Oceanside for a Marine inspection.
Then, the packages are sent to commanding officers in Iraq.
Taffy said she knows the items have arrived when she receives
thank-you notes from troops.
Last month, the Dalbys received the Costa Mesa Mayor's Award for
their volunteer work. Taffy has been invited to speak at an upcoming
City Council meeting about the project.
She has been canvassing Newport-Mesa schools, looking for
volunteers to make care packages.
"I'm trying to teach kids patriotism and the importance of helping
out from where they are," she said.
Three young cadets from Squadron 68 of the volunteer Civil Air
Patrol were on hand Saturday to pack goods. They were brought by Lt.
"What better way to give back than to make this connection from
the ground," Kolosick said. "The kids were jumping at the chance.
"See that one right there -- he's excited to be here."
Kolosick was pointing in the direction of Andre Lamunyon, a
15-year-old cadet from Aliso Viejo who said he "wanted to help
Lamunyon was stationed under an umbrella, packing salty foods and
candy into plastic baggies.
The Dalbys get most of their items from personal and store
They seek the help from fellow members of Rock Harbor Church and
others in the religious community. Taffy said about 25 people
typically come to the monthly event, which she has held since the
Iraq war began.
The couple spends hundreds of dollars each year out of their own
pockets to buy the goods.
"The troops tell us what they need and what they like," Taffy
The Dalbys' daughter, Alisha Woodford, summed up the family's
interest in the cause."Here I was sitting on my couch ... and I
realized I needed to make a difference by helping the kids who are
losing their life so I can enjoy my freedom," Woodford said.