DOWNEY - When the last porch light goes out on Halloween night and every trick-or-treater is safe at home, after each scary costume is put away and the last Tootsie Roll is gobbled up, the real horror begins: dental cavities.But one local dentist has a plan to both promote dental health, while also supporting America's troops serving abroad. On Nov. 1, Dr. George Gholdoian, in collaboration with Operation Gratitude, will buy back candy from local kids for $1 a pound and send the treats to soldiers serving overseas. "We feel honored to do this," said Gholdoian, who opened his Downey dental office in 1966. "This is the first time we've done it, but this will be done on a yearly basis." Gholdoian, 71, decided to host the buyback after his administrator of 37 years, Sylvia Gardea, read about Operation Gratitude in a dentist magazine. "I thought it might be something we could do to help," said Gardea, 55. "It's important for all Americans, whether you're for or against the war, to support our troops." Operation Gratitude was started in March 2003 when founder Carolyn Blashek sent her first four care packages to Iraq. Today, the California-based organization sends out more than 100,000 care packages to American troops around the world. "About 60 percent go to Iraq, 30 percent to Afghanistan and 10 percent to the ships and parts of Africa and India," said Blashek over the phone. "That will be changing - we'll have more going to Afghanistan than in the past." Though Blashek believes the organization will meet its goal for this holiday season, she acknowledges that the economy has greatly affected their donations. "Oh yes - they are down dramatically - about 30-50 percent," Blashek said. "We give out over 60,000 packages during the holidays. We don't say no - and I don't want to start saying no." Annually, Operation Gratitude spends nearly $1.1 million to send the care packages, each one costing about $11 to send. Friends and family of soldiers serving overseas can go online and request a care package be sent to their loved ones. Gardea hopes the office can raise at least $1,000 for Operation Gratitude, but insists that help from the community is needed. "What ever little thing we can do here to make them feel appreciated - we should do," Gardea said. "We also want to get that candy away from the kids and promote dental health - you don't have to give up all of it, maybe just half - share it with our troops." The candy buyback will last from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday outside Gholdoian's office on the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Cherokee Drive. In addition to accepting monetary donations, the office will also accept donations of ChapStick, batteries, beef jerky and handi wipes.
********** Published: October 30, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 28