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Eastwood takes time for troops

West Fargo Ladies Auxiliary President Agnes Reiniets (center) directs a group of Eastwood Elementary School students on Thursday as they package goods from a recent Treats for Troops food drive. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer1 / 2
Thirty-two boxes are ready to be shipped to soldiers stationed overseas. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer2 / 2

The Eastwood Elementary School library was abuzz with activity Thursday, as dozens of children dashed about, grabbing items and ferrying them back to their stations.

"How much was all this again?" one girl asked her partner as she pointed to the contents of a cardboard box.

"Twelve Twizzlers," the partner responded.

And so it went for a while, until all the supplies were neatly boxed up and ready to be mailed.

But this was no ordinary event: it was not a school project for grade, nor was it to raise money for a field trip.

The 40-or-so Eastwood students, along with several adult volunteers, were gathered for a very special reason: to help U.S. troops.

"I think it's fantastic," assistant principal Jason Cresap said. "It's creative way to give back to the troops, while teaching citizenship at the same time."

The brainchild behind Treats for the Troops is Eastwood school counselor Joan Houdek. Houdek, who was dressed in her father's military fatigues during the 20-minute stint, said it is at least the fifth year students have come together to collect food for military personnel.

"She is very motivated; she does so much for the community," Cresap said of Houdek.

For two weeks, everything from popcorn to Pringles to books were collected during the drive. When all was said and done, 32 boxes were crammed full of goodies for several soldiers currently fighting on foreign soil.

All the soldiers also have connections to Eastwood. Staff Sergeant Jeffery Arth and Technical Sergeant Patrick Sommer both have daughters who attend Eastwood. And Lance Corporal John Leier is the son of Jill Leier, who taught at Eastwood for 25 years before taking a job at the district office.

"This is really cool," said Jill Leier, who helped volunteer Thursday.

Jill Leier said her son and his friends are big fans of weight lifting, so she often sends him protein powder or fitness magazines. She expected something similar when informing John of Eastwood's program, but was surprised by the response.

"He said 'Just tell the kids to send letters, that's all we want,'" Jill Leier said.

John Leier recently turned 21, and his mom got some area students to send him well-wishes on his big day.

Now, he will be getting some other treats to share with his brothers' in arms, too.

Also helping out Thursday were several members from the West Fargo VFW Ladies Auxiliary.

"We need some more licorice or sunflower seeds to fill it to the top," Ladies Axuiliary President Agnes Rieniets said, as directed to her group of Eastwood students. "They love sunflower seeds."

Funding for the event, including postage, came from the Grafton VFW, West Fargo VFW and West Fargo Ladies Auxiliary.

"We have helped for several years with this project," Rieniets said.

Someday soon, however, Rieniets hopes food drive like this won't be as necessary for U.S. soldiers.

"We just wish they all could come home soon," she said. "It's been much too long."