Soldiers overseas will receive packages packed full of supplies and goodies this holiday season from, of all places, Paonia Elementary School.
PES staff member Renee Adams came up with the idea. Her three sons all joined the military in 2009 and 2010, and all deployed simultaneously in 2011. During their deployment, "We sent tons of care packages," said Adams. They quickly learned that their efforts went beyond their sons. They in turn, would share them with their fellow soldiers who hadn't received packages of their own.
While her boys are all veterans now, about three weeks ago, as the holiday season approached, she remembered how much those care packages meant to them during the holidays. "I decided, I'm just going to send some care packages," she said.
She sent a call out on social media to others who may want to get involved and immediately received some 40 responses with offers of donations and money to pay for postage, which costs about $16.50 per box.
The donations quickly started coming in to the school. To make it interesting, Adams challenged each class at PES to see which one could collect the most items. Boxes were placed in each classroom, and student council got involved. When Adams and one of her sons were invited to Paonia High School for the annual Veterans Day salute to the military, their student council got involved.
Last Friday, she said, the high school delivered 10 boxes of supplies to PES. Cedaredge Elementary School got word of the collection and also delivered three boxes and money. The Beta Sigma Phi sorority chapter of Paonia donated $200 worth of items.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, PES student council representatives, teachers, parents and grandparents packed boxes full of candy, snacks, toiletries, pens and pencils, toothbrushes and other donated items for shipping through the U.S. Postal Service. "An overwhelming amount, as you can see," said Adams. "I was overwhelmed by the support. I was going to send a few boxes, and then it turned into this."
Boxes are headed to members of the military stationed in Kuwait and South Korea. Recipients will, in turn, share items with other soldiers who may not have received a package of their own.
Adams said she plans to repeat the effort in 2019. She met with a Grand Junction group called Operation Interdependence (www.oidelivers.org) that provides military care packages and other support to active military members overseas and plans to adopt a unit overseas.
PES is still accepting donations to pay for postage. To sponsor a box or make a donation, call PES at 527-3639.