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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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Local school kids put love into holiday care packages

By Lance Cpl. Jess Levens | | December 12, 2003

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The auditorium of Holmes Elementary School is adorned with white, 18 by 18-inch cardboard boxes lavished with stenciled reindeer and freehand Santas, hand-decorated from the students for Depot service members.  The 120 boxes will be filled with holiday food and a little slice of love and given to service members Dec. 18.

The boxes are for Marines, sailors and Coast Guardsmen who have fallen on tough times, according to George Mangual, director, Substance Abuse Counselor's Office.

This is the third year for the program, but is the first year elementary school kids have helped with the effort.

"We get so much support from everyone," said Mangual.  "But we thought it would be more creative if the kids decorated the boxes."

The majority of students participating are also involved in after-school programs such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, who are using the opportunity as a service project, according to Nora Rodrigues, Holmes clerical assistant.

Mangual approached the school with the project because of other projects done with the school in the past.

"The kids at Holmes know the Marines or have at least seen them," said Mangual.  "This seemed like a perfect opportunity for the kids to do something for the Marines."

The food boxes include a ham or turkey, plus all the fixings for a traditional holiday meal, according to Mangual.  Some baskets may contain extra gifts as well.

"Part of this food drive was another example of Marines helping out Marines," Said Mangual.  "Most of the food was donated by the Depot at the Turkey Trot this year."

Another organization that donated food and money to the drive is the Nice Guys, a group of community volunteers headed by a retired Marine.  The Nice Guys gave both nonperishable food items and money for the effort.

Members of the American Legion are also decorating food boxes, but the majority of the boxes will be decorated and given by the children from Holmes.

"I was excited for the chance to help out," said Rodrigues.  "The local military had done so much for the school, and now we get to give something back at a time when they need our help."

Rodrigues sent a memo out to her teachers asking for help, and everyone agreed it was a worthwhile project.  Holmes has 22 classrooms and each class is responsible for at least five boxes, according to Rodrigues.

Once the boxes are decorated, they will be given to Marine Corps Community Services to be filled and distributed.  Boxes are given to an individual's command, which made a list of how many people need boxes.  They are then given out by the commands Dec. 18, according to need.

Each food box will feed four to five people, with names remaining confidential.

"This project really helps reinforce the relationship we have with these kids," said Mangual.  "We've shown that we support them, now they get a chance to support us, and I think that makes them feel special."

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