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Care packages and personalized notes and cards have been crafted and collected, and sent to servicemen and women overseas through the local Valentines For Troops effort.
Each year the Valentines for Troops program, offered through the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 308, sends letters and care packages to deployed personnel. After being written, letters from local students and other participants are proofread by volunteers and sent with care packages.
Valentines For Troops Chairperson Donna Monteleone Randle said this year’s effort “went really well.” Local schools and organizations worked to send the valentines and care packages before Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, February 14.
Local schools — Sandy Hook Elementary School, Head O’ Meadow Elementary School, Reed Intermediate School, Newtown High School, and St Rose of Lima School — all had students or clubs participate in this year’s effort, according to Ms Randle. A number of schools in Danbury and Daniels Farm School in Trumbull also took part in the effort this year, and Newtown Youth & Family Services (NYFS) participated by running its Operation Heart to Heart program, which sent letters and care packages through Valentines for Troops, according to the organization.
Dental Associates of Connecticut also helped supply toothbrushes and dental floss for one unit from Orange now serving overseas. Ms Randle said the unit does not have access to resources and was in need of supplies.
Along with the unit based out of Orange, Ms Randle said this year’s effort sent letters and care packages to five Air Force units, three with connections to Newtown and two with connections to Connecticut. Each of the units has roughly 50 to 100 people.
Head O’ Meadow’s valentines were sent to St Rose of Lima School Principal Sister Colleen Therese Smith’s niece, Megan Smith, whose unit is serving overseas. Sr Colleen said on Friday, February 3, as students wrapped up boxes for the effort at her school, her niece was thrilled to be part of the Valentine’s For Troops effort. Sr Colleen said she was particularly touched when she was included in an e-mail chain between her niece and local administrators working on the valentines effort. Seeing her niece thanked for her service made Sr Colleen thankful for a community that honors servicemen and women, she said.
Two units from Germany were also sent valentines and care packages. Husband and wife Drew and Katie Taylor both serve in units supported by the effort this year. Captain Drew Taylor grew up in Newtown, and St Rose of Lima School students wrote letters to his unit. Sandy Hook School wrote letters to Captain Katie Taylor’s unit, and Head O’ Meadow wrote letters and made care packages for Ms Smith’s unit, according to Ms Randle.
When the care packages and letters were being put together at Sandy Hook School on Friday, February 10, to be shipped out, Kaki Taylor, Mr Taylor’s mother, visited with the students to share information about her family. She also shared pictures with the students and took photos of the students to share with her son and daughter-in-law.
Newtown Post Office Customer Service Manager Rich Crowther and rural carriers Rich Gaffney and Jerry Sousa also met the students at Sandy Hook School to load a truck with the boxed items and letters; but before the students gave them the boxes to ship off, students spent time decorating the boxes with stickers.
Barb Sibley, who co-chaired the Valentine’s For Troops effort at Sandy Hook School with Rebecca Fung, said the school sent out roughly 500 valentines on February 10, including letters from a local Girl Scout troop and from groups at Newtown High School. Items included in the packages, according to Ms Sibley, included lip balm, deodorant, and candy.