June 08, 2013 10:50 AM
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Students in a fifth-grade class at Penns Manor Elementary School recently completed their twice-a-year community service project, reaching out halfway around the world to send a touch of home to Indiana County servicemen and -women stationed in Afghanistan.

Handmade greeting cards by the hundreds have been packed and sent overseas along with other gifts and novelties assembled through the Soldiers Angels program based at St. Bernard Church in White Township.

Teacher Beth Palilla said her students are encouraged to put a personal touch on their cards. They extend Christmas or Easter greetings, or — in the case of the latest round of greetings — jokes or riddles meant to share a smile with folks on military duty.

“We always try to do something special. They’re cut in special shapes, not just pieces of paper folded in half. They’re always very colorful — like this last time, they were designed with all different kinds of flowers, or rainbows,” Palilla said. “And on each one, we added a joke. The children and I looked through books and found ones that might make them laugh, ones they would enjoy.”

Palilla said the project calls on the students to think about what they’re doing.

“At Christmas, that’s when we spend the most time on them, and try to write something that will impact them during the holidays, let them know they’re being thought about,” she said. “I ask the children what kinds of things come to mind when we’re doing the project, what are they thinking about? And a lot said, ‘We just want to make them smile. Everything is sand and they’re in camo — we want to make something bright and colorful that they can hang up, and when they see that, they’ll think American students did that.’

“We take it pretty seriously, especially because of our families.”

— Chauncey Ross


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