Daily News photo/ALY GIBSON Union High School graduate Kelsie Primley packs several care packages for Dowagiac’s National Guard unit currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Archived Story

Troops to receive Interact packages

Published 3:38pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dowagiac Union High School’s Interact Club community project couldn’t have come together at a better time.

Last October, when the club first formed, senior and club president Lauren Krueger began brainstorming ideas with other club members for how they could complete a community project. Dowagiac’s National Guard armory, just across the street from the high school, gave her an idea. From then on, the club decided to fundraise money to send 95 care packages to the 1-126th Calvary National Guard unit currently stationed in Afghanistan.

“We decided that we wanted to send care packages and find ways to raise money to put those packages together,” Krueger said Thursday during the packaging at the school.

Through community and school fundraisers that included a candy cane drive, pumping gas at Family Fare and a car wash at the school, Krueger said the club hadn’t accrued enough funding to be able to purchase and ship the packages.

“We had raised $500 on our own,” Krueger said. “We estimated it would cost around $500 just to ship the boxes, so we knew we needed more.”

In order to help raise community awareness and support of the project, Krueger hit the streets of Dowagiac, talking with several local businesses and asking if they would be willing to donate supplies or money.

“I literally just walked up and down the street from store to store, talking with owners and managers,” Krueger said. “We couldn’t have done the project without their help and generosity.”

Businesses that donated to the packages included: Ausra Equipment and Supply Company, Bakeman Barbers, Berrybrook Enterprises, area Chambers of Commerce, Chet’s Auto Car Credit, Curves of Dowagiac, Dowagiac Auto Service, El Paso Mexican Restaurant, Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union, Hales Hardware, Huntington Bank of Dowagiac, Honor Credit Union of Dowagiac, H.R. Hannapel Door Company, Imperial Furniture, Kemner-Iott Agency of Cass, LADD Incorporated of Dowagiac, Lyons Industries, Porky’s Party Place, Round Oak Restaurant, State Farm- Greg Osborn, Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Terry Ausra Farms, Who Knew Consignment, Williams A-1 Expert Tree Services and Zeke’s Restaurant.

Michigan National Guard Sgt. Greg Hammond, first approached about the project, helped the club connect with the troops. He said he was shocked at how many supplies the club had gathered to send.

“It’s phenomenal,” Hammond said. “When I first talked to them I didn’t think they would get this much. It’s really impressive for a community this size to be so generous.”

When word came back to Dowagiac that 10 men from the unit had been attacked by IEDs, Krueger and Hammond knew the packages would arrive when they were needed most.

“We planned this way before the attack,” Krueger said. “But I think the fact that they’re getting them now will help even more.”

Supplies that the club included into the packages ranged from candy, snacks, small toiletry items and hygiene products to thank-you cards, comic books and a note from the club. Krueger said she wanted to give them more than just the standard “toothbrush and toothpaste” care package. A special box for the women of the unit was also prepared with conditioner, Bath and Body Works body wash and magazines.

“That’s what our club is about, helping our community and the world,” Krueger said.

“They go out and risk their lives every single day and if we can do something as simple as fundraising and sending them stuff to help while they’re deployed … it’s the least we could do.”

Hammond said currently eight of the 10 injured soldiers have returned to duty. The other two have returned back to the U.S. for further treatment. Krueger said it is their sacrifice each day that made the club want to go further.

“This is why I invested so much time into the project,” Krueger said. “They deserve more.”

To donate to Spc. Eric Lund, of Ludington, mail donations to Eric Lund Benefit, Building 3625, Fort Sam Houston, TX 78234, or visit any Fifth/Third Bank and reference account number 9976105347.

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