The Payson Supply Line — a grassroots effort that sends comfort and care packages to military personnel in war zones — celebrates its 8th anniversary this month as it nears a tally of 1,800 boxes mailed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Those 1,800 boxes each meet the needs of approximately 15 to 20 service men and women. That means up to 36,000 people living in those war zones have benefitted from the efforts of Butch Klein and Lud Kaftan, their wives and the hundreds of Rim residents and others who have contributed to this special program.
The Payson Supply Line began its mission in January of 2005. It is a Christian-based 501(c)(3) organization with four officers: Butch Klein, Lud Kaftan, Marian Kaftan and Kathy Klein. All are unpaid volunteers.
The first recipient of a Payson Supply Line box was Staff Sergeant Jason Watson, the brother of Butch and Kathy Klein’s daughter-in-law. After sending Jason a small box of items just as “family,” Butch felt that God was leading him to do more, not just for Jason, but for all of our troops stationed in war zones.
Butch is a former Marine and discussed his thoughts with fellow Christian and former Marine Captain Lud Kaftan.
In just a short time, Butch and Lud brought their wives, Kathy and Marian, into the mix. Lud’s home office became the first area to store supplies and pack the boxes for shipping.
“It was amazing,” Watson said of that first Payson Supply Line box. “Lots of people send boxes, but they only pack a few things (for the individual); Butch packs his boxes with stuff — everybody got a little bit.”
He recalls the contents of that first box, “A pair of seal skin socks (is the one thing I remember most). They were waterproof and did wonders when we were charging through the mud,” Watson said.
As for his fellow soldiers, he said what they appreciated most were the hometown treats — cases of sunflower seeds, beef jerky, chips and Snickers bars. “That stuff reminded them of home,” he said.
Since returning from the war and moving to the Rim Country, Watson helps out every Christmas packing boxes and whenever the Supply Line needs to mail off a big shipment.
The work continues
This week, the group is mailing four boxes from students at Payson High School and it will soon ship a half-dozen boxes to the field hospital.
Klein and Kaftan pointed out some of the contributors for special acknowledgment — Swiss Village Storage has provided space for the program’s goods; Walmart has made many donations; the women of the Community Presbyterian Church have been baking cookies for the troops; another group has contributed beanies for the winter boxes and cooling scarves for the summer boxes; and Pioneer Packing in Phoenix has donated the shipping boxes.
The program still needs names of military personnel who might benefit from a box. Anyone from anywhere can send a name or names to receive a Payson Supply Line box or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The supplies include any requested items not supplied by normal government issue. A typical box sent weighs approximately 35 pounds and holds enough items to service 10 or more people. Items include health care goods to snacks, cereal, powdered drink mixes, hand and foot warmers, small games, and much more. The cost to ship a typical box is approximately $65.
Oasis Christian Books & Gifts, 512 S. Beeline Highway, Payson, accepts items for the boxes, and the Payson Public Library also has a donation box. The Crosswinds Restaurant at the Payson Airport has a container for monetary contributions. Mail tax-deductible donations to: Payson Supply Line, 514 E. Timber Drive, Payson, AZ 85541. To learn more, call Klein at (928) 474-6968, or Kaftan at (928) 474-6981.