GORE BAY—Once again this year students at Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay are taking part in the OP Troop Support program.
“This is the eleventh OP Troop Support shipment from C.C. McLean,” said Heather Jefkins, Grade 4/5 teacher at C.C. McLean. She explained that the program began as an attempt to support Canadian Armed Forces members serving in Afghanistan with OP Medusa during the fall of 2006. Since that time troop support boxes have been shipped to active service members based in Kandahar and Kabul, Afghanistan; in Juba, South Sudan; in Kuwait and with three secure locations in different theatres of operation this year.
“Today was our OP Troop Support packing day,” said Ms. Jefkins last Wednesday. “We packed about $1,000 worth of ‘treats’ into 10 photocopier paper boxes, which were shipped out to deployed CAF members in three locations across Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Again this year, we had financial support from the Lyons Memorial United Church Women group, as well as donations of soccer balls and Tim Horton’s coffee from BMO Bank of Montreal. Many families from across all grades throughout the school provided donations of treats, as well as financial support for this project.”
“As in past years, Canada Post supports the shipping of the boxes to CFB Trenton, through their Friends and Family mailing program for deployed CAF members. In addition, Deborah Woods and Heather Turner from BMO came to help students fit all the treats into the boxes and to make sure the boxes were securely taped and ready for shipping,” explained Ms. Jefkins.
Included in the boxes this year were Tim Horton’s coffee, assorted cookies and crackers, granola bars, chips, drink crystals, candies and chocolate bars, gum, puddings, trail mix, licorice, tea, ketchup and maple syrup. In addition BMO provided soccer balls, “which we hope the CAF members will be able to share with children in the areas they are working in,” said Ms. Jefkins. “Students created winter scene artwork and each recipient had at least three student-created pieces of art placed in their box. As well, pressed maple leaves collected by Grade 7/8 teacher Bruce Lindsay were included in each box, along with a copy of Bliss Carman’s poem ‘A Vagabond Song,’ and a letter from me.”
Ms. Jefkins explained as of November 9 the boxes had entered the Canada Post system. From Gore Bay, they will travel to Belleville where they will be sorted and shipped to various locations around the world through the CAF delivery system which starts at CFB Trenton. This year the boxes are all going to CAF members who have volunteered with OP Flat Stanley, so each soldier already has a personal connection with at least one of the students who helped pack their treat box.
“None of the recipients know that we are sending them treats, so we are very excited knowing that when the boxes arrive, they will be quite surprised,” said Ms. Jefkins.
“This project is an amazing learning experience for my students,” she continued. “We do a lot of math when we do our inventory and calculate what needs to be purchased to make sure each box contains an equal amount of treats. Students focus on design when completing the art work to go in to the box and this year they focused on creating paper collage scenes to remind the deployed members about the winter weather that will be coming our way. Filling the boxes themselves is almost like completing a 3-D jigsaw puzzle and requires a lot of problem-solving to ensure all available space in the box is used and all the items are securely packed to prevent damage.”
Ms. Jefkins pointed out, “the communities of Western Manitoulin have shown tremendous support for OP Troop Support over the last 10 years. Donations and offers of support come not only from the families of students in my class, but from families with students in all grades across the school, from community partners and community members at large. Without this support, it would be very hard to send such an abundance of treats to so many CAF members. Based on the feedback I receive every year from the men and women who receive the boxes our gifts from the Island provide a morale boost and a taste of home to every recipient, which they are able to share with others serving with them, often including military members from countries around the world.”
“I estimate that over 200 different members of the CAF have received boxes since the inception of the program,” continued Ms. Jefkins. “On behalf of the CAF members who receive the boxes, I would like to thank our community for supporting this program within our school.”