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Area students wanted to support those serving overseas for the holidays, so here’s what they did

While students around the school district were hosting programs for local veterans, Talawanda Middle School took on a project to support those currently serving overseas for the holidays.

Students wrote notes and donated items that were included in 23 boxes sent to military personnel serving away from home. The boxes were sent by the Blue Star Mothers of Dayton, based in Kettering, which has been sending packages overseas for 25 years. Social Studies teacher John Brinck talked about the project at the Dec. 17 board of education meeting, saying TMS is one of three schools in the region working with the organization, which sends hundreds of boxes overseas every holiday season.

“The high school, five years ago, began a wonderful program for veterans. Our own students write essays, and the winners go to the high school and read them,” Brinck told the board. “Last year, we sent care packages after we got a list of names.”

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Last year, the school sent 20 boxes to service people overseas and collected enough for 23 this year. The effort started before Halloween with students asked to bring in an item to be included and to write a letter or note to the person receiving the box.

Brinck said more than 475 letters were written, and each box they sent had 18 to 20 letters in it. He emphasized the students were told to use only their first name and not include any identifying information. The name of the school, however, was included in hopes those receiving the boxes will write back to the school so the letters can be shared with all the students.

“Almost every kid in school wrote a letter,” Brinck said. “It was up to the kid what to include.”

Items and letters were collected in the school’s tutorial classes around the lunch periods.

Boxes were filled at the school, and Brinck took them to the Blue Star Mothers, who opened all of the boxes and included more items. Tables line the walls of their office space with boxes full of additional items such as ChapStick, Slim Jims, deodorant, candy, baby wipes, Ramen noodles and books and magazines.

The letters are “the most important part,” Brinck told the board.

“(The Blue Star Mothers) were taken aback by the fact our kids wrote letters. There was not a bum letter in the box,” he said. “Last year, 10 soldiers wrote back to the kids.”

He said the Blue Star Mothers were so impressed they invited him to bring some students with him next year to help them prepare the boxes for shipping, something Brinck said was impressive and he looks forward to being able to take them along.

“Next year, the kids can pack packages and stockings. We’ll pick five to eight kids,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this year when I can bring kids with me.”

Donations for the boxes included a wide range of items, which Brinck said he was happy to see. He gave special thanks to the local Taco Bell, which donated a box of their sauce packets.

“They went crazy over those sauce packets. The food is so bland,” he said.

Following the presentation at the board of education meeting, Superintendent Ed Theroux thanked him for taking the time to work on the project.

“What you do cannot be measured by a standardized test,” Theroux said.

Brinck thanked the staff and students who worked on it.

“It kind of grew on its own,” he said. “Good things are happening.”

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