"I wanted to express my deep and sincere appreciation for sending all of the care packages .... particularly given how difficult the last couple of months have been for all of you with Hurricane Sandy. Care Packages help so much to keep that connection with our friends, family, and communities back home and remind us of how selfless our neighbors are."
That was the sentiment expressed in a letter written by Lt. Commander Brendan Piccolo of the U.S. Navy and addressed to Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and the Long Branch Housing Authority.
Piccolo, stationed at Bagram Airfield in Northeastern Afghanistan, is one of the officers who received much-needed items and distributed them to troops as the result of a recent Care Package Drive.
The Character Education Club at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School has been organizing the Care Package Drive for the past few years. This year the students wanted to "raise the bar" and send a record-high number of items to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They accomplished this goal by partnering with students from the Evolve Education Program of the Long Branch Housing Authority.
Their efforts began in October of this year when the R-FH group asked fellow students and community members to donate troop-requested items such as energy drinks, instant coffee, gum, candy, DVDs, magazines, books, and more. Toys were also dropped off for distribution to children in the region.
Once collection was complete, the R-FH club teamed up with students from Evolve in Long Branch to sort, pack, and ship the items. They worked under the guidance of R-FH Character Education Advisor Jason Lippart and Evolve Director Theodore Drakeford. This collaborative effort, the first of its kind between the two groups, resulted in the delivery of 56 packages containing the comforts of home.
In the letter Piccolo expressed his surprise, saying "I may have set a record for the number of packages received in one day, and have dutifully shared with the staff in this headquarters ... I speak for all of them when I say thank you so much for thinking of us."
A military reservist, Piccolo will return to his civilian job in Maryland when he arrives home in mid-January to his wife Amy and their two daughters, ages 2 and 4. Although he resides in Washington, D.C., he has strong ties to the shore area with family members residing in Belmar, Sea Girt and Spring Lake.
"I was truly inspired by the hard work and generosity displayed by the students and community members who helped make the Care Package Drive so successful," noted Lippart. "The willingness of people to pull together for a common cause, even in times of personal strife and hardship, really helps kick the holiday spirit into overdrive."