After a successful division-wide new sock drive in October (462 pairs of socks collected), a mega food drive where over 3000 food items were collected for a local food pantry in November, and a touching adopt-a-family initiative that supported families in crisis in December, we decided that January’s Lower School community service project should not involve a “drive” of sorts but instead something that Lower School children themselves could do without parent help or monetary support.
After searching for such a project, I stumbled upon “Hugs for Soldiers,” a program “dedicated to offering comforts from home and brightening a Soldier’s day with a care package, card or letter of encouragement.”
Here is an excerpt from a story written about this project:
A January community service project hatched in the Lower School has transformed into a school-wide initiative as students of all ages are beginning to craft and create valentine cards and messages for troops overseas.
From there it took on a life of its own – including the decision to earmark Hamden Hall’s cards and letters to Hamden Hall alumnus Matthew Peterson, who graduated in 2003 and is currently a captain in the U.S. Army. Matthew was deployed in early January to Afghanistan for eight months – his second tour in that country. He was also deployed to Iraq for one year. His mom, Cookie Peterson, is a former second-grade teacher at Hamden Hall who retired in June 2010 after 17 years. Many Hamden Hall faculty continue to keep in touch with Cookie, including Sue Bennett and Sandi Cunningham (with whom Cookie taught second grade for 11 years), who are helping coordinate the Hugs for Soldiers initiative.
So, after Sue Bennett, our Lower School art teacher explained the project to our students as assembly, students began creating the most beautiful and heartfelt cards and notes to be sent to Matt and his unit. At the end of January, we accumulated over 150 cards and they were sent on their way through the Hugs for Soldiers organization.
In early March, we received this beautiful note along with pictures from Matt and his unit. We shared these at assembly with our students. It was an emotional experience for everyone in attendance and our students sat with wide-eyes as they saw their valentines in the hands of a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. And it was so powerful to have a service project come full circle.