Since Sept. 11, 2001, Hallsville Elementary School has had a world map hanging outside the principal’s office. The map has the names and locations of 31 Hallsville residents who are in active military service around the world.
This holiday season, Hallsville is trying to make sure its more than 1,200 residents stay in touch with the city’s service members. The city is preparing care packages to send to soldiers stationed overseas, particularly in Iraq and Kosovo.
“I don’t want anyone to forget that these people are there,” Hallsville Police Chief Pete Herring said.
For the past two weeks, people from all over Hallsville and the surrounding area have been bringing items into the city hall to send to service members. Churches and schools also are getting involved in the program, called Operation Holidays For Heroes.
“We’re having a really good reception to this,” Herring said.
His efforts have had a snowball effect. As of Thursday, Hallsville raised $645 and collected enough items to fill more than 20 shopping bags. This does not include materials donated by students.
Hallsville currently has five Army National Guard soldiers stationed in Iraq and Kosovo: Danny Johnson, Adam Underwood, Gustave Jones, Roberta Howell and James Cheek.
Herring called the military in Jefferson City and asked how to direct care packages to soldiers who have no one to send them anything. The money raised will be used to buy more items and to ship the boxes.
Glynda Durk, who runs a day-care center in Hallsville, has two relatives from Jefferson City serving in Iraq. Before Herring began the Hallsville effort, Durk had started her own. She had asked families in her day care to send boxes to soldiers who are related to the other families in her day care.
“If they could touch four soldiers, why couldn’t they touch more soldiers?” Durk said. She approached Herring about getting the community involved so that the city could reach out to more soldiers.
Herring prepared information for Hallsville’s mission, including a sample list of items people could donate. He distributed the list to churches, schools and businesses in the Hallsville area. The list includes food, practical items, such as sunblock and baby wipes, which help soldiers cope with the harsh elements overseas, and fun items like Frisbees for down time.
Sherri Briedwell, a fourth-grade teacher, hopes Hallsville residents will donate enough supplies so that the city can send extra packages to soldiers without families.
“We’re hoping some of the kids bring in some of the items,” she said.
Hallsville High School students have volunteered to help box everything up Tuesday morning and take it to the post office.
Herring hopes to continue to collect donations after the holiday season. He said people keep calling in with soldiers’ addresses, meaning the town will always have a place to send the items it collects.
“It’s going as far as people will take it,” he said. “As long as people bring things in, we’ll ship it.”