Donna Randle and Jen Peterson are happy with the progress they have made working with Newtown schools, including St. Rose and Merryhill preschool, on the Valentine's for the Troops program.
Their goal was to expand the program to the community having covered all of the area schools. The response was enormous. They have church groups, athletic teams, scouts and local corporations joining the letter-writing campaign.
They have developed a new system that they are finding to be more efficient. This year they are sending the valentines for each group in one box to the chaplain. The chaplain will then distribute the letters and any other items. Along with letters, groups and organizations joining the campaign are encouraged to put together care packages for the troops.
Some items for the care packages have been donated by businesses, such as coffee from Starbucks, toothbrushes from area dentists, DVDs from Charter Communications, batteries from Duracell and Dove from Unilever.
Groups sending packages are encouraged to include other small toiletry items and possibly candy. According to Ms. Randle, candy is popular with the troops and go a long way to spreading good will when shared with children.
While selling cookies, some of the Girl Scout troops are asking for donations to cover the cost of sending cookies to the troops along with their letters.
Ms. Randle has not stopped with reaching out to the Newtown community. This year the program has expanded to include neighboring towns as well. They have the 4H club in Danbury and Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport involved as well as schools in Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington Depot.
For any groups needing envelopes, “Larry the envelope guy” will provide the supplies. Ms. Randle says Larry is a local man who enjoys his title. His contribution to the program is to donate large quantities of envelopes. He drops them off at Reed Intermediate School and Ms. Randle and Ms. Peterson make sure they get to whichever group needs them.
Each group is assigned names and they take care of shipping their boxes on their own. Ms. Randle adds that Mark Favalle, the Postmaster at Hawleyville Post Office has been tremendously helpful in getting all the packages shipped properly.