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December 24, 2004

Deaf troupers pitch in for troops

From: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - Rochester,NY,USA - Dec 24, 2004

Greg Livadas
Staff writer

(December 24, 2004) — It's easy for us to take something as basic as a toothbrush or a bar of soap for granted.

But for U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, such items are always welcomed.

That's why students at Rochester School for the Deaf this week collected and mailed several boxes of items to Afghanistan in "Operation Care Package."

"I feel proud to give," said Phillip Sullivan, 18, of Rochester, who helped fellow students Amanda Stillwagon, 17, of Batavia, Genesee County, and Jamil Haque, 20, of New York City, pack the items for the overseas trip.

Although the project was part of teacher Ann Cannarozzo's Participation In Government class, the entire school pitched in with donations. Children gave allowance money to help pay postage, visitors to campus basketball games were also asked to donate, and the Wegmans Food Market in Perinton chipped in with a box of items to send.

Donations at first were sluggish. But things picked up when students were given homework passes that allowed them to get out of doing homework for a class if they donated, Amanda said.

The idea began last year, when students were visited by Maj. Thomas Schmitz, 39, of Pittsford, who spent a year in Afghanistan with the 401st Civil Affairs Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Webster. He talked about sniper incidents and seeing children their age without shoes in the winter.

"The questions were endless at the end of the presentation," Schmitz said. "Were you shot at? What were the people like?"

Through Schmitz, Cannarozzo got the e-mail address of Maj. William McLaen, 39, of Parma, now serving in Afghanistan.

"Packages are nice to get. It is good to see the community coming together to show support for the troops over here," he said in an e-mail. "Razors and shaving cream will never go to waste in a place you shave seven days a week."

While most troops are well fed and have access to most things they need, some items will likely be passed to Afghan children. Medical items, such as hand sanitizer, are given to doctors who work with refugees, he said.

"I hold on to any tea or instant coffee that comes my way but share a lot of candy and such with other people," McLaen said.

"The enlisted guys like to give candy to the kids when we are out."

Pictures, cards and newspapers from home are always welcome, McLaen said.

How to help
Additional boxes may be sent to troops in Afghanistan. Canned goods and personal hygiene products may be dropped off at Rochester School for the Deaf, 1545 St. Paul St. Donations to help pay for mailing can be sent to: Rochester School for the Deaf, Operation Care Package, 1545 St. Paul St., Rochester 14621. Call the school at (585) 544-1240 V/TTY for details.

Copyright 2004 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.