SHANNON Burns was chatting with her financial adviser, Ryan Burchfield, about what a shame it was that so many troops overseas never received care packages or letters from loved ones.
She never thought details of that conversation would balloon into a full-fledged community effort that would see hundreds of Northside Middle School students making a difference.
The result was that dozens of care packages were flown to Kandahar, Afghanistan, for distribution to Air Force Troop 777, guaranteeing a somewhat brighter holiday season for airmen whom local adults and students probably will never meet.
“Unless you know somebody there, you just don’t think about all those troops overseas who are working hard for our freedom,” said Burchfield, a member of the 3035 N. National Road branch of the Edward Jones financial advising company.
“It’s fantastic to see how this has spread.”
Burchfield and Burns, the mother of 23-year-old Joshua Burns, who is serving in Kandahar, told the same story about the day two months ago when Shannon Burns came into the Edward Jones office for some financial advice.
Shannon Burns talked to Burchfield about the letters and care packages she had already sent to her son. However, she said she felt badly for many of the other airmen, whom her son told her rarely or never received the same kind of attention.
Burchfield was touched and motivated to do something about it. He set up a donation box in his office, spread the word to his clients about the effort and watched as items such as razors, hand warmers, toothpaste and beef jerky quickly accumulated.
One of those clients was Sue Green, a Spanish teacher from Northside Middle School, who was so touched by her adviser’s effort that she got an even wider effort going at that school.
She and six other teachers spoke to their students, who over the next several weeks donated hundreds of dollars worth of items and wrote letters to accompany the care packages they assembled.
About 150 of those were foreign language students who wrote their letters in Spanish, Green said. She said another 150 were other students who wrote their letters in English.
Green said students in her eighth-grade Spanish class poured their hearts into the letters, telling a little about themselves and also expressing their gratitude.
Student Daniel Liming said he thinks a lot of military personnel, given that his father and grandfathers served their countries at various times. He said his understanding is that troops feel alone when they’re overseas and need encouragement from home to know that people appreciate them.
“I’m sure it’s hard for them to be away from their families for so long,” student Cailyn Arnholt said. “I know a lot of people don’t thank the military like they should.”
Although it may not have been needed, the teachers provided extra incentive for students to raise donations by promising to reward the most generous class with a pizza party.
Joshua Burns was the point person to receive the mail parcels from both Northside and Burchfield’s office, Green said. He was to deliver the packages to the base chaplain, who was to distribute them to some of the other airmen.
Joshua Burns’ wife, Brittany Burns, said she has been humbled by how the community has embraced the effort. She said it’s about more than just the usefulness of the items in the care packages. It’s also about stoking in the airmen a feeling of appreciation.