Island elementary school students join forces to bring Christmas cheer to troops

Porter Fogal, a student in the grade 2/3 class at Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay, helps to carefully place treats in one of the four boxes headed to Canadian Armed Forces members deployed with Op Impact (Kuwait), through the Troop Support program. Mr. Fogal is the grandson of Warrant Officer (retired) Jack Bould and nephew to Warrant Officer (retired) RJ Bould.

GORE BAY—A group of students at Charles C. McLean Public School (CC McLean) are making the Christmas season a little brighter for some members of the Canadian Armed Forces by creating and sending boxes of “Merry Christmas from Manitoulin.”

“My grade 2/3 class at CC McLean Public School has created boxes of “Merry Christmas from Manitoulin” for four Canadian Armed Service Members serving at Camp Canada with OP Impact (Kuwait),” said teacher Heather Jefkins.

The grade 2/3 class students said in a joint statement, “it is important to send packages like this to show the soldiers that we are thinking about them, and make sure they have some treats from home because they have to be away from their families at Christmas.”

“This year C.C. McLean staff, students, community members and the Lyons Memorial United Church UCW supported the filling of the boxes through the donation of treats, as well as financial support to purchase items to make sure the boxes were full to the brim with treats such as candies, cookies, crackers, gum, granola bars, puzzle books and even maple syrup. Students also created cards and artwork to go in the boxes, to help remind the recipients that they are thought of and cared about by the students in our class,” explained Ms. Jefkins.

Ms. Jefkins said, “the OP Troop Support boxes have grown from shoeboxes to Afghanistan in 2006, to large copier paper boxes filled to the brim with assorted treats for CAF members serving with United Nations and NATO Missions across the world. More than 200 boxes have been shipped as ‘Merry Christmas from Manitoulin Morale Mail,’ since the program first started.”

“This year, one of the recipients of the boxes is also a ‘Stanley Handler,’ one of the pen pals who corresponds with my class throughout the year,” continued Ms. Jefkins. “He is normally based out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, but this year he will be spending the Christmas season away from his family working with other Canadians as part of OP Impact.” 

Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Jefkins and her class, it also inspired a Gore Bay company to provide their product to Canadian troops during the month of November.

“It was at the 2019 Christmas Market at Manitoulin Secondary School that Heather initially told us about the awesome work she does sending care packages to the troops,” said Brianna Harris of Manitoulin Coffee Company. “It was really fulfilling for us to work with Heather in getting good coffee in the hands of some very deserving Canadians. We look forward to running the promotion again next November!”

Ms. Harris explained, “for every bag of coffee we sold during the month of November, we sent one to a member of the troops.” 

“I was happy to see the support we received on Facebook,” said Ms. Harris. “There was a lot of participation in getting the word out on our promotion.”

“We even had a couple of people order from southern Ontario. Most of our customer base is on the Island so this was really exciting for us,” added Ms. Harris.