MONTROSE - What began as a small gesture from a couple in Montrose, has now turned into a community-wide mission of support for soldiers overseas.
November's 9Who Care recipient is Marta Taylor, the woman behind thousands of care packages sent to troops at war.
"She's a hero. She's a lady who has lived a tough life and knows what that's like. She has a heart bigger than anybody I've ever seen," Jim Kerschner, local radio personality and fundraiser for 'Operation Sweet Tooth,' said.
Every week for the last 11 years, Marta Taylor makes a trip to the post office in Montrose. It seems an ordinary errand, until you realize that she's shipped more than 12,000 boxes from there.
"It seems like not a lot when I ship eleven boxes a week, but that's a lot," Taylor said.
Taylor's packages don't go to family or friends or grandkids. Each and every box is shipped to soldiers at war.
Her friend Valerie Strubel has witnessed her perseverance over the last 10 years.
"Her dedication is amazing. Her health hasn't always been the greatest but it hasn't stopped her from working in cold warehouses, packing packages for the troops. She lives for this mission," Strubel said.
Marta's mission began more than a decade ago with the dream of her late husband, Landy, who would have been 90 this year.
"My husband wants to join the National Guard," Taylor said. "They tell him he's too old, but we keep going up there, and we make friends."
Taylor promised him before he passed away six years ago that she would continue their project: A project that began when their friends from the local 109th in Montrose deployed to Iraq in 2003.
"I was raised in World War II, and I know how I go to door-to-door to the neighbors asking for slice of bread. We don't have nothing," Taylor, who was born in Poland, said. "Now, I support the troops, which they need it, a little something from home."
What began out of their own pockets, quickly turned into a community effort. Over the past decade, the Western Slope has raised more than $500,000 for 'Operation Sweet Tooth.'
Each year, their fundraiser is led by radio DJ Jim Kerschner, who hosts an auction of items donated by local farmers and businesses.
Taylor now ships supplies and sweets to 44 units in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and German military hospitals.
"Usually people don't recognize Marta. They recognize the name Operation Sweet Tooth, everyone's heard of that, but they're always surprised when they find out that it's her, this teeny tiny woman, packing all these boxes and doing this," Strubel said.
Taylor has mailed servicemen and women more than 520,000 pounds of supplies.
"She's touched every pound, every ounce of that 260 tons. She's never wavered one time. And she's never taken a penny for doing this," Kerschner said.
Each thank you letter, each card, and each photo she receives from grateful servicemen and women around the globe is carefully saved and displayed in her home.
"That's amazing. Like, when you get something on the computer sent from the soldiers. That, that makes you cry," Taylor said.
Taylor has done nearly all of this while she wasn't even an American Citizen. She finally decided to take the test in 2010, and passed with a perfect score.
Each year, Operation sweet tooth spends at least $30,000 in shipping costs.
If you'd like to help the Operation, you can mail a check to 'Operation Sweet Tooth,' 106 Rose Lane, Montrose, Colorado, 81401.
To nominate someone for 9Who Cares, visit this page to learn more: http://on9news.tv/dVgcj4.
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