LAKEPORT, Calif. – Ginny Craven, the found of Operation Tango Mike – a group that sends care packages to members of the military overseas – has been named grand marshal for the 2011 Lake County Fair.
Craven’s family ties to Lake County date to the early 1900s, so it comes as no surprise that her family vacationed here when she was a little girl, and moved to the Lucerne area full time in 1968.
She attended Lucerne Elementary and Upper Lake High School, and then went on to California State University, Chico. She credits her college career to the many local organizations that provided scholarships, and graduated from CSU, Chico in 1985, with a variety of academic honors, including graduating cum laude, with Dean’s Honors, and as a member of the academic order Phi Kappa Phi.
Craven spent several years working for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office before returning permanently to Lake County in 1990, when she began a series of local law enforcement jobs.
During the same period Craven worked as a volunteer firefighter and EMT for Lucerne Fire Department, was honored as Firefighter of the Year in 1993, and served multiple terms as the president of the Lucerne Volunteer Firefighters’ Association.
In 2003, Craven began sending care packages to a couple of her law enforcement colleagues who were deployed to Afghanistan as part of the California Army National Guard. It was the start of Operation Tango Mike, which translates to “Operation Thanks Much” in military jargon.
The troops referred comrades to Craven, requests for more care packages grew, and soon she needed both financial and physical assistance to meet the demand. More and more individuals began assisting in securing donations, packaging and shipping care packages, and seeking financial backing.
Today, some 80 to 100 care packages are prepared and shipped to troops every month, and recent totals have approached 150 packages. Monthly shipping costs exceed $1,000, and other costs bring the monthly expenses to nearly $2,000.
Some supplies are donated, and other supplies are purchased locally to fill the void and ensure the troops’ needs are met. Operation Tango Mike utilizes donated space at Umpqua Bank for its base of operations.
Craven credits the Lake County community with providing the support to continue and increase the effort to support American troops deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Fundraising and maintaining the troop support program is challenging during these difficult economic times,” she said. “However, the wonderful people of Lake County have always come through and never has a packing party or a shipment had to be canceled. I am proud to call Lake County home and proud of what our community has accomplished. Supporting our troops is an honor and a labor of love.”
In 2008, Craven was awarded the Stars of Lake County Award for Woman of the Year, and in 2009 Operation Tango Mike was awarded the Stars of Lake County Award for Volunteer Organization of the Year.
She also has been named an honorary member of both the Military Funeral Honors Team of Lake County and the United Veterans Council of Lake County.
In her spare time, she photographs local youth sports, printing the photos and giving them to the athletes to encourage them to maintain their grades and good behavior so the athletes can remain eligible to play sports.
Operation Tango Mike packing parties take place the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m., at Umpqua Bank in Lakeport. Everyone is welcome.
Donations of goods may be placed in any red Operation Tango Mike barrel, which can be found in many retail stores throughout the county. Items such as foot powder, body powder, lip balm and wet wipes are in great demand due to the intense heat endured by the troops. Items such as nuts, tuna in pouches and jerky to supply protein to troops on the move are also needed.
Other food products, such as dried fruits, granolas bars, cookies, individual drink mix packets and candy are always appreciated. Items that melt cannot be shipped.
This year, Craven will be honored by the Lake County Fair, having been named along with Operation Tango Mike as the parade grand marshal by the fair’s board of directors.
Each year the board of directors selects an individual who has had a large and significant impact on Lake County. The grand marshal leads the parade up Main Street in Lakeport on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., and arriving at the main gate on Martin Street, cuts the ribbon and declares the Lake County Fair open for another year.
In typical fashion, Operation Tango Mike is preparing its own float to lead the parade and honor both America’s troops and it’s own volunteers.
Each year, the fair parade is the kickoff event for the annual Lake County Fair. The parade starts at Natural High in Lakeport, travels south on Main Street, and ends at the main gate to the fairgrounds with the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The parade this year takes place on Thursday, Sept. 1. Upon arrival at the main gate, everyone who enters the parade with a float will receive free entry to the Fair.
Regular admission prices for the 2011 Lake County Fair are $10 for a regular ticket, $6 for a senior over age 60 and $6 for children ages 6 through 11. Children under 6 years old are admitted free every day. Children through age 11 are admitted for $3 on Thursday, Sept. 1, for “Kid’s Day.”
The Lake County Fair traditionally occurs Labor Day weekend each year at the fairgrounds in Lakeport. The 2011 fair dates are Thursday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Sept. 4.
Lake County Fair is one of Lake County’s favorite summertime events, and is enjoyed by nearly 40,000 people each year. The fair features a variety of entertainment, food, exhibits, a carnival and livestock shows. The Fair theme for 2011 is “Make Some Magic!”
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