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Published: Thursday, 3/20/2003

Youths give troops taste of home

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Fassett Middle School sixth grader Monica Reeves writes a letter for her care package. Fassett Middle School sixth grader Monica Reeves writes a letter for her care package.
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No air-conditioned grocery stores are tucked between the tents of desert camps.

For American troops serving abroad, even standard shopping-list items like shaving cream and chewing gum are rare luxuries.

A group of local students is trying to ease the hardships on military men and women stationed overseas by sending packages stuffed with snacks and toiletries.

“It think it's neat that we can get involved with people that are so far away helping our country,” said Rachelle Duval, an eighth grader at Fassett Middle School in Oregon.

She is one of 55 members of the school's Youth to Youth group, which organizes activities for students who pledge to stay clear of drugs and alcohol. The group is teaming up with Christ Dunberger American Legion Post 537 in Oregon for the package project.

Gary Arquette, a member of the Legion post, was delighted with the students' enthusiasm yesterday as they sorted crackers, candies, tissues, and lip balm into cardboard boxes. The students collected items for the packages from parents and friends.

“This is great. I can't believe all this,” Mr. Arquette said. “All the stuff they donated is exactly what the troops need.”

The students packed 15 boxes, topping off the useful goodies with personal letters and drawings. Some students designed cards thanking troops for their efforts.

A few weeks ago, the students baked cookies in the school's kitchen and sent them in packages with store-bought cookies donated by a parent. They hope to send a third batch of packages soon.

Because of military security, the packages must be addressed to specific people. Youth to Youth members have gathered about a dozen names and addresses of troops who grew up in the area or have relatives nearby.

“We are still collecting names. We're hoping to get all the servicemen and women from Oregon and Jerusalem Township,” Diane Smith, a teacher who oversees the group, said. “We're trying to show the kids that it feels good to do something for other people.”

Ms. Smith said she hopes residents will contact the school with the addresses of their relatives in the military.

When the group has more names, they will send another round of packages.

The Legion post is paying for postage with money from their many fund-raisers. The first nine packages cost $133 to send.

Mr. Arquette fondly remembers receiving mail when he was in the Army. He was stationed in Germany in the early 1980s when the Red Brigade, an ultraleft terrorist group, was active in Europe.

“I got care packages when I was in the service, and it just lifts you up,” he said. “You start sharing things with your buddies. It's a taste of home.”



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