By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Students in the Business, Management and Finance High School at Lawrence High are sending smiles to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Members of the BMF Community Club collected everything from writing pads, pens, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, shavers, movies, magazines, candy, pretzels, soap and soup. Each box included a letter from members of the ROTC program and student’s photographs.
This is the second year physical education teacher Julia O’Donnell organized the project. Last year, students sent seven boxes to soldiers fighting overseas. O’Donnell said their goal was to send four, but students, teachers and staff members collected enough items for 10 boxes.
O’Donnell sees the project as a mission and learning experience.
”When you involve kids who are used to getting everything handed to them, when they see the whole picture they can’t believe they don’t have basic stuff. It creates a conversation and hopefully will open their eyes to be more sympathetic,” she said.
Club members raised money by selling chocolate and lollipops, raffling off a giant teddy bear and bringing their own toiletry donations.
”Lawrence is the poorest city in New England and these are the most giving students I’ve ever known,” said JROTC Major Kathleen Romano. “When it comes to giving, we never have to ask twice because there is an outpouring of donations.”
Students said this is the least they can do.
”We’re doing this to show them we respect them and appreciate the hard work they are doing in protecting our country,” Henry Cabrera said. “Hopefully it will help keep their spirits up.”
In addition to Cabrera, a senior, other members of the Business, Management and Finance Community Club are juniors Alba Diaz and Jasmine Taveras; and sophomores Cindya Martinez, Annakarina Aguila, Tommy Tran, Kevin Aparicio and LizAndy Martinez.
”They protect us every day and we have to be grateful for their service,” Aparicio said.
Several soldiers who have received care packages have sent thank-you letters, postcards and photographs to students. The letters include personal information about the service men and the reasons why the joined the armed services.
O’Donnell has enlarged the letters and displayed them in the office so students and staff members can read them.
One letter came from Air Force Technical Sergeant Jamie M. Bennett.
“I want to say thank you for thinking of us,” Bennett said in his typewritten letter. “Each and every one of us is proud to serve our country and its people. There are no words that can truly capture what receiving packages like these from complete strangers means to every soldier, sailor, airman and marine. So one more time, from the bottom of my heart ... Thank you.”
Air Force Master sergeant Stephen Gonzalez Sr. hand wrote his letter saying, “It’s always a treat to get something in the mail. Thanks to all of you for your time, dedication, support and prayers because your efforts do not go unnoticed.”