Maci Archer still has more than a year until she is able to see Jared Ball again.
The Brownstown Elementary School preschooler said she is proud of him for serving the country in the Army.
“I love my daddy,” she said.
As a service project, Maci and the other students in the On My Way Pre-K class are collecting treat-size candy to send overseas to troops. Several boxes will be sent to distribute to members of the military, while one special care package will be sent to Ball with candy and some of his other favorite treats along with signs made by the kids.
“It’s fun for me,” Maci said of collecting the candy.
On the second day of school, preschool teacher Bethany Schlatterer said Maci wore a shirt with a yellow ribbon on it that said, “My heart is overseas with my daddy.”
“That’s when Mrs. S learned that Maci’s daddy is overseas,” she said to her students. “It’s his job to keep us safe.”
When Child Care Network Executive Director Kate Garrity told Schlatterer about the four On My Way Pre-K classes and seven Kids Klub sites doing service projects, the Brownstown class had a personal connection to the military.
She found out about Operation Gratitude, a California-based nonprofit organization that allows American civilians a chance to say “thank you” through collection drives, letter-writing campaigns, craft projects and care packages.
“Sometimes, you can’t just go to the store and buy the same things we have here, so we’re sending them a little bit of home,” Schlatterer said of why they chose to send candy to troops overseas.
Tammy Obermeyer, a Child Care Network board member, told the students they made a good choice.
“Because I’m sure that the people that Maci’s dad works for, they give him food for breakfast and for lunch and for supper, but I bet they don’t give him Reese’s Cups. Reese’s Cups are very important. Nothing beats Reese’s Cups,” she said, smiling and drawing laughter from the kids.
Obermeyer and fellow board member Mindy Taskey recently visited Schlatterer’s classroom to hear the students’ presentation. They learned the students came up with several ways to advertise their project.
Maci and a classmate went to other classes at the school to let them know what they were doing. They let people know they could either buy candy or make monetary donations. They also made posters and fliers and hung them on walls around the school.
The signs advertised the students are collecting treat-size candy through Monday.
“After Halloween, candy prices go down, so we want to give everyone a chance to maybe go to the store and pick up some extra ones. It gets a little less expensive,” Schlatterer said of why they extended the deadline a few days after the holiday.
The community also may get involved by dropping off candy or money at the school office.
The only types of candy not allowed are 1-pound bags of loose candy (such as candy corn), Halloween toy giveaways (such as plastic rings, charms and fake teeth) and loose sugar candy (such as Pixy Stix).
Once the collection ends, the candy will be placed in boxes and shipped to Operation Gratitude.
The person, group or organization conducting a candy drive just has to cover the shipping costs. When Obermeyer and Taskey learned that, they received approval from their employer, Dicksons Inc., and Child Care Network to help the class.
“We talked about it and we think we’re going to support you guys,” Obermeyer said, drawing cheers from the kids. “Mrs. Mindy and I, before we left work, we talked to our boss a little bit, too, and he said because we ship all kinds of things everywhere in the world and we ship so much stuff, sometimes, we get it at a little cheaper price, so we’re going to take care of shipping it all for you.”
Schlatterer expressed her excitement, and one of her students suggested the class give hugs to Obermeyer, Taskey and Garrity.
“Oh my goodness! That’s so exciting,” Schlatterer said. “We hope to do quite a few boxes with lots of candy.”
Garrity and her board members were excited to see the class step up to the challenge.
“We just put the challenge out there, so we’d like for each group to do a service project, and seeing how far they took it, they got the whole school involved, the community involved,” Garrity said.
“It’s awesome,” Obermeyer said. “When we got to see the posters and stuff, it’s like, ‘They are really into this.’ They talked to other kids at school. They are the little kids on the block, and to get out and ask for that, it’s very exciting to see the kids accomplishing something like this.”
At the end of their visit, Obermeyer encouraged the kids to keep thinking of ways to help others.
“When you have a really good idea and you’re going to do something nice for other people, all you have to do is ask, and we’ll try to help you,” she said.
“It’s important that you guys make sure that you keep doing good stuff for other people, and if you keep doing good stuff for other people, everyone else will support you, too,” she said. “No matter if you’re 4 years old or 40 years old, I just want to make sure that you guys understand that you can do great, big things if you ask people for help.”
The public is invited to donate treat-size candy and monetary donations to support the Brownstown Elementary School On My Way Pre-K class’ service project for Operation Gratitude.
Candy will be sent to troops serving overseas, and a special care package will be sent to a student’s father, who is with the U.S. Army overseas.
Donations may be dropped off in the office at the school, 612 S. Base Road, Brownstown. The deadline is Monday.
For information about Operation Gratitude, visit operationgratitude.com.