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Care packages heading to soldiers in Iraq

Students help Principal Doug Hatch (left) to load boxes that were mailed to soldiers in Iraq. Among those helping out were (left to right) Cole Peterson (behind boxes), Madison Seeger, Huana Nelson, Ebony Campbell and Gabe Van Beek.

New Richmond Middle School students are learning the valuable lesson of selfless giving this holiday season.

Approximately 60 care packages were dropped in the mail Friday en route to Iraq and American soldiers stationed there.

The entire school played a role in gathering the packages, which were filled with things like books, pens, pencils, toothpaste, shampoo, disposable cameras and playing cards.

Each homeroom in the school was assigned to gather one box for the care package drive. Most homerooms assembled three or more boxes.

Also inside each box is a personal letter written by one of the sixth graders at the school.

Each letter is three or four paragraphs long and expresses the student's gratitude for the soldiers and their personal sacrifice in defending freedom in the world.

"I think it was a good project for the students to be a part of," said teacher Linda Reuvers. "Sometimes kids this age seem to be takers rather than givers, it shows that they can understand and appreciate what other people do."

Reuvers added she wasn't sure if the students would "get it" when putting together the special packages.

"But they did," she said.

Teacher Gabe Henk, who helped coordinate the effort, said he was thrilled with the results of the project.

"It's been pretty cool," he said. "The kids really responded well. Everybody has been awesome."

Local resident Chuck Mehls and Postmaster Joe Bolder were also very helpful in arranging for the mailing of the packages, Henk said.

"Hopefully the packages will get there by Christmas," he said.

One of the more challenging aspects of the project was gathering names of deployed soldiers to send the packages to. Armed services regulations require a specific name on each package.

A number of the boxes will be mailed to family and friends of local people. Two nephews of teacher Greg Kier

Nathan Kier, staff sergeant 1st class, is serving his third tour of duty in Iraq and Nicholas Kier, Private First Class, is serving his first tour of duty in Iraq after a year in Korea. Both are Army infantry men. They are the sons of Jeff and Cindy Kier, Maple Grove, Minn.

"Nate has nearly died three times from either sniper bullets or shrapnel from road side bombs," Greg Kier said.

Kier said he was happy to be involved in the Middle School's effort and hopes the boxes get to soldiers who need encouragement and some extra supplies.

"I am very impressed that the middle school is sending packages to my nephews and very grateful," he said. "It is not easy serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Support of our troops is needed and wanted."

The Middle School's support of the troops does not end with last week's mailing. They are gathering more supplies in anticipation of the New Richmond Army National Guard's expected deployment overseas in February.

In the weeks following Company B's arrival in Iraq, care packages will be sent to all the members, Henk said.

Anyone interested in participating with donations or with postage can contact New Richmond Middle School at 243-7471.