Meadville Tribune

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December 11, 2013

Senior project, student body gathers items for troops

VERNON TOWNSHIP — Of the countless charities and causes she could’ve chosen to benefit with her senior project, Meghan Leri wanted most of all to donate to U.S. soldiers.

“A senior project should be for charity, I feel,” said Leri, who collected 935 items for Project Support Our Troops with the help of her fellow schoolmates at Meadville Area Senior High School. “I really appreciate the soldiers; that’s something I think about.”

Just the thought of servicemen and women spending time away from the warmth and comforts of home and family at Christmastime was enough to inspire Leri to spend two weeks gathering items and several hours counting and transporting them.

She even enlisted teachers to help post signs and keep collection boxes for students to drop off items.

“I was really surprised when I went to the school for pick-up last Friday,” Leri said, wondering at the time how she would pack everything into her car. “I really didn’t expect that much. I’m really happy with the response.”

Volunteers and organizers for Project Support Our Troops are happy with the outcome, too, especially around this time of year when they ship hundreds of care packages to soldiers overseas.

Leri contacted Laurie Davis, local Project Support Our Troops organizer, who supplied her with a list of nonperishable foods, clothing, hygiene products and other items needed.

Given the opportunity, Leri and her mother, Robin, also joined the Christmas packaging session Monday evening at the Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52 in Vernon Township.

“I’m just overwhelmed by the outpouring from the MASH student body,” Robin Leri said. “I was so proud of all of them. They really gave of themselves.”

Davis expressed her thanks to Leri and many other local students from technical institutes and other schools she says give tremendously year-round.

“We have some great kids making a difference for us,” Davis said. “Some collect items, others collect money for shipping and purchases. Without these kids, I don’t know what we’d do. ”

The near-thousand items from Leri and MASH give Project Support Our Troops a little more supply this year, but with 50 to 75 boxes shipped every month and hundreds more expected for the holidays, the cause always needs more items, Davis emphasized.

“People can donate items, money and any talents they can offer,” she said. “There are many ways people can help and we will put them to work.”

And there are many soldiers deployed overseas who appreciate the remembrance during the Christmas season — just ask their mothers.

“These are our military, our troops,” said Kathy Pipper of Meadville, holding a care package for her son, deployed to Kosovo two months ago. “This is a very good idea and it means a lot, especially for those who can’t come home for the holidays.”

Meadville resident Sharri Rickel also packed a box for her son, deployed in Afghanistan, who she said will experience his first Christmas away from home.

“We ship to anyone,” Davis said. “They all have a job to do and we don’t judge whether they’re in a war zone or not. They’re still separated, still away from home.”

Project Support Our Troops has shipped Christmas care packages to U.S. soldiers in numerous countries, including Germany, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Italy and Japan.

“Even if we don’t think they’re in danger zones, all places, especially the open seas, can be dangerous,” Davis said. “Our troops can be attacked at any time. We want to let them know they’re not forgotten and they’re appreciated. That’s our sole purpose.”

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