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Boxes from home
Beta Club packs, sends packages to troops in Iraq

LOGANVILLE - Nearly 100 members of J.P. McConnell Middle School's Junior Beta Club on Friday packed boxes of snacks and gifts to send to American troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Club president Kevin Schatell, an eighth-grader, said the students exceeded their goal of filling 100 boxes because the students, faculty and staff at the school donated so many items.

This is the third year the club has sent care packages to servicemen stationed overseas, said Jan Eakin, the lead club sponsor. The event "really hit home" this year, because the son of a teacher was killed about a month ago, she said.

Operation One Voice, a nonprofit organization that supports the children of Special Operations Forces, helped with the effort by providing the school with contact information, said Duluth police Lt. Bill Stephens, the organization's founder.

Along with the usual assortment of granola bars and powdered drinks, the students packed Silly String in the boxes headed for Iraq. Stephens said the troops can use the string to uncover booby traps before entering buildings.

Eighth-grader Grace Johnson, the club's vice president, said she hopes the care packages - and the Silly String - will let the troops know that people here still care about them.

"They're out there suffering for us and defending people they don't even know," she said.

Lindsey Eidson, a club member whose cousin left just before Thanksgiving to serve in Afghanistan, said she thinks it's "really cool" that the club put together the boxes to let the soldiers know they are not forgotten.

Although Eidson said her cousin is lucky enough to call home whenever he wants, she knows others aren't as fortunate as he is. She donated notepads and envelopes to help the troops keep in touch with their loved ones.

Kapri Collins, a computer science teacher and another club sponsor, said packing the boxes was especially meaningful to her because many of her relatives are serving overseas.

"It just warms your heart to see the children taking pride in their country," she said.