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Avon calling…from thousands of miles away

Marjorie Sleeman of Jonesborough is no fighter.
In fact, she is a lively woman in her 70s who tries to make war more bearable for soldiers stationed in harsh desert theatres. So, she helps troops in Iraq weather their time in combat more comfortably by allowing Avon to call on them, one unit at a time.
“I send the SkinSoSoft bug sprays, mini shampoos, full size deodorants, lip balms, hand lotions, foot powders, just anything I can ship,” Sleeman said. “I get the biggest prepaid boxes they have at the post office and cram them as full as I can.”
Sleeman has been selling Avon for nearly five years. She picked up the idea from her family to send free products to enlisted men and women stationed in the Middle East.
“I heard about it through my daughter up in Michigan,” she explained. “I would send stuff to her, or have Avon ship it to her, (because) her husband’s nephew was there. And I thought ‘Why don’t I do that?’”
Last Thanksgiving, Sleeman began using Avon to reach out to local soldiers who were far from home. She has managed to send several boxes to Iraq, and she hopes to send some of the same supplies to Afghanistan soon.
Now, she relishes the thought that sweltering heat, gusting wind, glaring sun and relentless sand fleas are all kept at bay by her care packages.
“I wanted to keep it local, and the little note I put inside (the box) says ‘This is from people in East Tennessee that are praying for you and thinking of you,’” Sleeman explained.
According to reports from returned veterans, Sleeman knows she is helping soldiers sleep through nights that would have been fraught with flea bites when she sends enough repellent for each member of a unit. She knows she eases sore and sweaty feet from thousands of miles away with powders and deodorants that wick moisture away from soldiers’ toes. And dry, cracked, sunburnt lips can smile again when Sleeman sends 24 tubes of lip balm overseas.
In a combined effort with the USO, Avon will match any donation of their products and send them to soldiers in combat zones all over the world.
But a grassroots effort really appealed to Sleeman, who hopes she loosens the grip homesickness has on local soldiers by sending her own special care packages to them.
“I do have thank you letters which mean a lot to me,” she said. “I am sending something to real people from the area, who are getting some real comfort from home.”
It costs approximately $34 each time Sleeman ships a box. Friends and customers have purchased products for her to send. But she hopes more people will volunteer to buy supplies to keep her homegrown charity going strong.
“I buy them myself. That’s why I’m asking for a little help here,” she said. “I need soldier’s names and addresses, and I’m looking for anybody that wants to help me. I would be willing to take products, but I don’t want money.”
Contact Marjorie Sleeman at [email protected], 913-1348 or 741-1133.