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St Valentine's Day Project Wraps Up This Year's Effort



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St Valentine’s Day Project Wraps Up This Year’s Effort

By Eliza Hallabeck

A red heart-shaped balloon floated above a line of students as they made their way out from Reed Intermediate School’s cafetorium to meet members of the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard Friday, January 29, for the finale of the St Valentine’s Day Project’s 2010 effort to send valentines to troops serving overseas.

Hawleyville Postmaster Mark Favalle oversaw students finishing 22 larger packages and eight smaller packages of letters and other gathered items into boxes to be sent overseas.

“It is hard to believe the mountains of stuff we started with actually fit into those cartons,” said project Chair Donna Monteleone Randle at the event.

Other schools in the district finished and mailed letters and cards earlier in the week, and Newtown Middle School, as of Friday, had yet to send its letters.

Ms Randle said this year’s effort was possible because of effort from many volunteers at each of the schools in town.

 “I wrote about my favorite sports,” said Reed Intermediate School sixth grade student Brendon Hensel, as he worked to stamp and prepare of box of letters to be sent overseas.

Brendon also said, in the letter he wrote for the program, he asked questions about the letter’s recipient, like if they have a pet, if they have hobbies, and what it is like where they are serving.

“I asked what the weather is like down there,” said sixth grader Dakota Ashby.

Mr Favalle said he volunteered to help send the letters when Ms Randle approached him.

“How could you say no?” Mr Favalle said, as the effort of loading the US Postal Service truck with boxes came to a close. “It is a great thing for the kids and for the soldiers.”

Ms Randle said letters to the troops were sent to Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Japan, England, and to ships at sea this year. The St Valentine’s Day project began as a class assignment in 2006 to a second grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Ms Randle’s son was in the class at the time, and the letter writing project grew to include sending Valentine’s Day letters to troops overseas.

Since 2006, Ms Randle said parent volunteers have helped send out a growing number of letters each year by proofreading, helping gather contributions, and put together care packages for the troops.

This year all of Newtown’s public schools participated in the project, along with St Rose of Lima Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, New Hope Congregational Church, and multiple scout troops and student-related clubs. The Newtown Junior Women’s Club also hosted a day to write letters for the project, and Maddie Stites, Meghan O’Rourke, Abby Stites, Tara Gaiser, Harrison Hoffert, Brianna MacDonald, Courtney MacDonald, Dani Gaiser and John Stockla participated in its effort.

Hard candy, beanie babies, men’s pajama bottoms, and gently used or new DVDs were also collected for the project this year to be sent with the boxes of letters and cards.

Ms Randle said Sandy Hook School collected and sent a box of beanie babies for children in an Afghanistan hospital.

“Any day a soldier gets a letter is Valentine’s Day,” said Ms Randle, while explaining her hopes for the project to expand to other towns and throughout the year.

Once students had finished preparing the boxes of letters to be sent with the US Postal Service, the students put on jackets and made their way outside to where members of the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard waited to lead them to the US Postal Service truck.

Charter Communications recorded the kick-off event for this year’s St Valentine’s Day Project, held at Reed on January 4, and that program will be aired on February 7 and 14 at 5 pm.

Other people involved in this year’s St Valentine’s Day effort at Reed included Assistant Principal Anthony Salvatore, health teacher Michelle Failla, music teacher Michelle Tenenbaum, Bea Gellert, Kathy Nostrand, Reed Intermediate’s Interact Club and its advisor Al Finelli, and project committee members Laurie Borst, Karen Pierce, and Jennifer Peterson.

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