Students and staff at Eastwood Elementary School and representatives of the West Fargo VFW Ladies Auxiliary banded together recently to make the lives of two military families brighter.
Last week the entities gathered in the library at Eastwood to pack up a variety of donated items that are now on their way to Kosovo, with their ultimate delivery destination - Major Brad Brown, Army National Guard out of the Bismarck headquarters company, and Sgt. Melvin Lynn, Army National Guard C company out of Fargo, both in Kosovo for a year-long peacekeeping mission.
Eastwood Counselor Joan Houdek, who has been overseeing this project for the past several years, said the students are always extremely excited about this activity that takes on a new recipient focus each year. "We like to support the troops and this year we had two dads just arriving in Kosovo. It could even work out that these packages will be waiting for them when they arrive there."
Wives and children of the servicemen were on hand to help with packaging duties - Kay Brown, and son, Eric, a fifth grader at Eastwood; and Kristy Lynn, and two daughters, Mikendra, a fourth grader at Eastwood, and Rebecka, a first grader. The Brown's also have a daughter, Alyssa, who is a student at MSUM.
Each year the Grafton and West Fargo Auxiliaries sponsor the event by covering the postage expense involved with sending the packages priority mail. Members of the West Fargo group also helped package the items, with Linda Childs, Gen Shoman, Marlys Eskelson, and Ann Chase, lending a hand this year.
"We couldn't do this if it wasn't for the VFW Auxiliary members," Houdek stated. "They always come and help out and everybody does such a nice job. We are very appreciative of their help and support."
Members of the 5th grade Student Ambassador group also played a key role in the project, assisting both with the collection and packaging duties.
Houdek said she is pleased and gratified by the overall effort which saw 52 boxfuls shipped out at the West Fargo Post Office, including lots of Pringles, popcorn and other foodstuffs, hand lotions and a variety of personal products, books, some new and used cds, dvds, and many other items brought in by the students over a week's time. This year, the soldiers also made a special request for little trinkets and toy items that they will be able to personally hand out to children when they are out on patrol.
A passel of personal cards and handwritten letters were also crafted by all the students and sent along with the other goodies.
Kay Brown, said she is proud of the students efforts on behalf of the two families and knows it will mean a lot to her husband. "For them, it is just so nice to know that people are thinking of them. It's that support that you hear about so often that means so much."
Kristy Lynn agreed. "I'm really touched that our school and community think so much of our troops that they would do this."
She said her first grade daughter's made their cards incorporating a lot of love and care, with their teacher saying she was really touched by what the first graders came up with, mentioning one student in particular who ended his composition simply but powerfully with "God Bless the USA. "It is truly very touching that first graders would come up with this," Lynn added. "We have a lot of community pride at Eastwood."