Toothbrushes, tissues, ramen noodles, Jolly Ranchers and more were stacked high atop classroom desks at Mattituck High School as a team of nearly 20 students and volunteers worked swiftly to sort each item.
Less than one hour later, 20 boxes were filled and ready to be shipped overseas to a platoon of United States servicemen and -women through Adopt-a-Platoon.
“There’s one box for each platoon member,” said 17-year-old Megan Riley, treasurer of the Interact Club. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff inside … we have tons of candy and there’s always a fun activity, like a game or a book, in each box.”
Adopt-A-Platoon is a volunteer-based nonprofit that ships care packages to U.S. service members in an effort to give them a better quality of life and lift their morale while they’re deployed, according to its website.
The students — members of Mattituck High School’s Interact and Students Against Destructive Decisions clubs — along with the Southold Youth Bureau, collected items throughout the month. “The teachers overall made announcements to the school that we were going to be collecting items in everyone’s homeroom class,” said Mikayla Osmer, 17, the Interact Club secretary.
Mattituck students, as well as those at Southold and Greenport high schools who will be collecting items later this month, worked with Bob and Sue Duffin from the Brookhaven Veterans Association to pack and distribute the boxes.
The association, created a decade ago, is run through Brookhaven National Lab. Comprised of a group of employees who have served in the U.S. military and their families and friends, the BVA strives to support retired veterans as well as those currently serving.
“The kids get involved and hopefully realize what the soldiers are going through,” said Mr. Duffin, the association’s team leader on the project. “They work 24 hours a day, make less than minimum wage and they’re in danger … We send candy and groceries, things they can’t get there that they’re used to having at home.”
Mr. Duffin said the BVA encourages students to write cards to send to the troops, something the students at Cutchogue East Elementary School participated in. The platoon Mattituck High School is sponsoring consists of five women and 15 men.
The U.S. Army veteran added that Brookhaven Veterans Association partners with Adopt-a-Platoon year round, sending care packages on a monthly basis.
Lynn Nyilas, director of Southold Town’s Youth Bureau, said the Southold and Greenport school districts will hold collections in the future. Those interested can also visit the organization’s website, adoptaplatoon.org, and click the “donate” tab to send money or items.
This is Mattituck’s fourth year collecting items for Adopt-A-Platoon, said district social worker and SADD mentor Andrea Nydegger.
“We live in a small town,” said Samantha Fine, 17, president of the Mattituck Interact Club. “It’s pretty hard to get out there and get a sense of the world. This is a way we can connect, and represent the Rotary also.”
Photo caption: Mattituck High School students filled boxes with treats and necessities last week to send to troops overseas through Adopt-A-Platoon. (Credit: Nicole Smith)