Walters State Community College students are doing their part to support service members stationed overseas. Four clubs have joined together in a month-long drive to collect items for care packages. Students have a lofty goal in this fourth year of the drive – topping the 5,000 items collected last year. Donation boxes are available on all four campuses through the end of the month.
The project is a combined effort of the Student Tennessee Education Association and the history, social science and psychology clubs. The drive got its start when a veteran told Jason Dixon, assistant professor of sociology, how much letters and packages meant to soldiers serving overseas. Dixon suggested the idea to students and they took it from there.
“Students are completely responsible for the drive to collect items. They decide where collection points will be and publicize it in their classes. I try to give them complete control,” Dixon said.
“A project this large is an excellent out-of-the-classroom learning opportunity. Students gain confidence, management, organizational skills, leadership skills and team-building skills. Individuals have even taken it upon themselves to approach corporations located here and get sizeable contributions,” he explained.
Students have added a request to the list this year —sports equipment.
“A member of one of my classes who has served suggested that we include sports equipment,” said Raquel Hall, a psychology major and a member of the Psychology Club.
“Our soldiers need to know that people back home support them,” Megan Starnes, an elementary education major said.
Alex Bauer, a pre-physical therapy major, said he is donating snack food so troops can have a little taste of home.
Items must be new and in a manufacturer’s wrapper. Suggested items include powdered drink mixes, crackers, beef jerky, trail mix, AA and AAA batteries, games, playing cards, crossword puzzles, books, scrapbooking materials, facial cleansing supplies, lotions, eye drops, tooth supplies, soap, deodorant, sunblock, note cards, pens, sports equipment, Ziploc bags and, perhaps the most valued, letters and cards of support.
Items donated will be distributed through Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit group formed to provide an easy way for the public to tangibly show support for troops even if they do not know an individual serving. Local recruiting stations actually recommended the Soldiers’ Angels. The organization has a warehouse and distribution center where packages are mailed in nearby western North Carolina.
“That took care of a big concern when we began. Mailing the packages would have been so expensive. We take what is collected over in one or two trips and this nonprofit handles the logistics from there, including postage,” Dixon said, adding that the cost of mailing 5,000 items might have made such a successful project impossible.
Donations from outside the college are welcome, particularly letters of support. In the past, elementary school classrooms have drawn pictures and contributed homemade cards. For details, contact Dixon at 423-318-2569 or Jason.Dixon@ws.edu.