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Oakland Elementary School’s kindergarten classes are raising funds to send 75 gift stockings to an adopted soldier’s unit this Christmas.
Operation “Santa Soldier” Stockings not only involves students in putting together gifts for American soldiers for the holidays, but also establishes a bond between the adopted unit and students through a pen pal program. Students will write to the soldiers and hear back about their travels overseas.
On Oct. 21, Sgt. Andrew Gobble, a soldier from their adopted unit, stopped by the Carroll County school to visit the classes. Along with him, he brought a large case filled with souvenirs he has collected while serving in Egypt and Iraq. Coins, figurines, patches and some of the equipment he carries were passed from hand to hand so that each child could get a good look at the items.
As he shared his collection with the class, he talked to them about what each item meant, and told them about some of his experiences overseas. “I was in Iraq in ‘05 and ‘06, and I’ve been in Egypt for almost nine months now,” he told them.
After his show-and-tell, Gobble answered questions from the class.
One child’s hand immediately shot into the air. “Do you have to fight the bad guys?” she asked.
“Luckily, I haven’t had to fight anybody yet,” he said, explaining that a lot of his duties overseas involve making deliveries and monitoring the activity in their area.
At home, Gobble has a wife and six children, whom he was able to keep in touch with regularly using Skype video chatting. Aside from missing them, Gobble also admitted that he missed home comforts — mainly food — during his service. “I’ve eaten a lot of salad over the last several months,” he laughed.
This is the second year that kindergarten teacher Sheila Hommema’s class has adopted a soldier for the holidays. “We adopted a soldier in ‘09, and sent 50 stockings to his unit that year,” she said. With the help of the community, she is confident that they can up the count to 75 this year.
Hommema has put out a call to parents and community members to lend a hand in raising the funds and collecting goods for the project. “We are placing flyers up at area businesses to see if our community would like to join in our endeavor to say, ‘Thank you and Merry Christmas to our men and woman who serve our country and protect our freedoms,’” Hommema said in a letter to the community.
Stockings this year will include hand lotion, new DVDs and CDs, iTunes gift cards, individually-wrapped Slim Jims and beef jerky, individually-wrapped Twizzlers, small bags of trail mix and nuts, individual packs of cookies, Rice Crispy bars and granola bars, fruit snacks and roll-ups, small puzzle books, double-A and triple-A batteries, individually-wrapped mints and candies, unbreakable ornaments, toothbrushes, floss, playing cards, stationary/notepaper and letters to the soldiers.
The school will hold an Operation “Santa Soldier” Stockings bake sale at the school on Tuesday to raise funds to purchase any items that are not donated for the project. Those who are willing to donate items to sell to voters on Election Day should sign up in the school’s main officer teacher workroom.
All monetary or item donations should be turned in to be included in the project by Nov. 21. For more information, contact Hommema at (276) 236-3049.
This project is credited to Hommema and teachers Mrs. Reynolds and Mrs. Embrey.