National Collegiate 4-H

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Penn State 4-H send holiday ‘Boxes of Cheer’ to American troops

For the fifth consecutive year, students in the Collegiate 4-H Club in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences are spreading holiday joy to American troops overseas.

As a result of the club’s “Boxes of Cheer” project, dozens of boxes filled with various items donated from the community are being shipped to more than 40 designated soldiers in Iraq over the holidays. The 4-H members put drop-off boxes around the Penn State campus for students and faculty to leave shippable items, and then gathered with volunteers to form an assembly line of packaging. The purpose is to “share the
Christmas spirit with a group that is usually forgotten this time of year,” said group president Bernadette Nace.

“Most of the contents are necessities that people here take for granted — anything from books, pencils, candy and magazines to toothbrushes and even Christmas cookies,” Nace said. “Some of the gifts are special as well, including letters from people in 4-H. Most people forget about the female troops, so things a female would like are especially appreciated.”

“Boxes of Cheer” isn’t a simple operation, Nace explained. Accomplishing the task requires a lot of administration, developing the students’ organizational skills even as it provides a community service.

In addition to helping the troops, the project is rewarding to those who volunteer. Amy Filson, a junior majoring in elementary and early childhood education, said many soldiers send letters, T-shirts and other mementos as a way of saying thank-you. “Last year, one soldier wrote saying how appreciative he was for our hard work and even took a picture with his entire unit in their dress uniforms,” she said. “It made it all worth it.”

Troops are always grateful because they realize how difficult the process is to get the boxes over to Iraq, Nace explained. Federal confidentiality policies mean there is no central, public listing of active soldiers. Members solicit names and addresses from families, friends and other personal contacts, a time-consuming process, but Nace said it’s worth it.

“We get thank-you letters all the time, with pictures and sometimes gifts in return,” she said. “Once, we had a soldier send us back his Christmas list.”

Penn State’s Collegiate 4-H is a private, nonprofit student organization that allows members to continue their community-based 4-H activities of recreation and community service and encourages their confidence and leadership skills. More information on the chapter can be found at online or by contacting chapter adviser Jacklyn Bruce at (814) 863-1789.