Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize Ms. Dianne Villano, the founder of Support Our Marines, Inc., in St. Pete Beach, Florida, who has dedicated herself to sending packages and correspondence to Marines who are stationed overseas. For the past four years, Ms. Villano, the owner of a local fitness company, has gone out of her way to actively support the troops, donating over 30 hours a week of her time to directing her non-profit organization.
After losing her fiance during the September 11th terrorist attacks, Ms. Villano began supporting the troops in 2005 by sending mail and packages to those serving overseas. In 2007, she officially founded Support Our Marines in order to send packages to Marines on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her initial contact with the Marines began when she discovered a Web site where Marines posted facts about their living conditions, experiences, and general needs while they were on duty overseas. She chose to focus her efforts on Marines stationed on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, because often, servicemembers in remote locations rarely receive packages. Since founding her organization, Ms. Villano has sent over 4,500 boxes of food and other items requested by the troops, between 40 and 60 packages a month, to over 115 contacts within the Marines who then distribute the items within their companies.
Additionally, Ms. Villano works diligently to secure funding for her organization to pay the costs to ship packages overseas. Support Our Marines is a registered nonprofit in Florida and Ms. Villano recently filed for 501(c)(3) status in order to be able to more actively solicit donations. Currently, she funds much of the mailing and acquisition costs with her own paychecks.
Ms. Villano also works to raise awareness about deployed Marines by competing in triathlons and running events while wearing military gear weighing about 20 percent of her body weight. She has competed in over 20 events, each of them with photographs of fallen Marines attached to her military gear and each in honor of a specific Marine from units she has adopted.
Recently, Ms. Villano was honored by being named as the first runner-up for the local Jefferson Award for Public Service which recognized her outstanding community service and dedication to the troops. She chose to present her award to a wounded Marine who had inspired her during her work for the Marines and presented it to him at the James A. Haley Memorial Hospital where he was recovering from a head injury. Additionally, she has been named as an associate member of the local Marine Corps League and has received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Department of State.
Madam Speaker, Ms. Villano is an extraordinary, selfless woman who deserves to be recognized for her outstanding service to the troops and for her continuing efforts to support them. I would like to thank her for her hard work and dedication as she continues to devote her time and attention to our heroes on the front lines of the war on terror.
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