Barb Bushey, a job coach with the Northeastern Clinton Central School District, helps pack boxes for her son’s U.S. Army unit, serving overseas. Donations from a now ongoing supply drive at the school are being sent on a monthly basis. For more information, search “Supplies for Soldiers” on Facebook.
What started as a conversation between co-workers has turned into an effort to connect soldiers overseas with their friends and family back home.
Earlier this school year, Janet McFetridge, a teacher with the Northeastern Clinton Central School District, was speaking with Barb Bushey, a job coach with the school district, about Bushey’s son, Kyle, who is currently serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. It was through that conversation that McFetridge learned of how much soldier’s like Bushey’s son look forward to contact from back home and how they need things that many take for granted such as hygiene products and reading materials.
That was how “Supplies for Soldiers,” an initiative to send donated items to soldiers overseas, was born.
“Barb and her son really were an inspiration for this whole project,” said McFetridge. “Barb explained to me how [soldiers] don’t have access to everyday things we would assume they’d have and she told me how she and her husband have been sending Kyle boxes of supplies every month with things like sanitary wipes.”
It wasn’t long before McFetridge consulted with district officials to see if she could start a supply drive to collect items for Bushey’s son and the unit he serves with, she said.
“It’s really taken off here at the school and in the community,” said McFetridge.
Donations began pouring in, enough so to fill three boxes which were mailed to Bushey’s son and his fellow soldiers last week.
“It’s been great, also because it’s also something we’ve used as a real teaching moment,” said McFetridge. “We’ve been able to bring awareness about the conditions they’re going through over there.”
The response has also meant a lot to Bushey, who is awaiting word from her son that he has received the packages.
“I’m so touched by all this,” she said. “When I heard they were doing this, I was just about in tears, especially seeing all the items people have brought in. It’s truly amazing.”
Journalism teacher Jessica Ellithorpe has taken the project a step further by having her students write to the soldiers overseas, giving them a sense that people back home are keeping them in their thoughts. The interaction is something Ellithorpe looks forward to, she added.
“I think this is great because often teenagers are given a bad rap, but the truth is so many of them do care about things like this,” said Ellithorpe. “The great thing about [Supplies for Soldiers] is it gives them something to think about bigger than themselves.”
The process will also involve Ellithorpe’s students asking the soldiers to explain the conditions they’re living in, she said.
“It’s giving [the students] more of a perspective of the human side of war,” said Ellithorpe.
That interaction and the continued support of Supplies for Soldiers is something McFetridge was hoping to see through the project, she said.
“It’s rewarding to realize that people really do care and they do want to make life a little bit easier for people who are donating their time for our country,” said McFetridge.