Students collect care packages for troops

LAWRENCEVILLE - Three Georgia Gwinnett College students are collecting donated items for care packages that will be shipped overseas to deployed military troops.

The students - Kim Ferrell, Amy Fondren and Stephanie Hewes - are working on a class project to market an event of their choice, but they said they also wanted to make a difference in the lives of people. The items and money they collect will be given to Troop Bebop USA at a rally Saturday at the Wal-Mart on Collins Hill Road.

"Supporting our troops is very important in this economical and political environment we're living in," said Fondren, a Suwanee resident. "But this is not a Republican thing or a Democrat thing we're doing. It's about the military and their support of America."

The students have set out boxes in each building on Georgia Gwinnett's campus to collect items such as prepackaged snacks, nonperishable food, toiletries, clothing, books and rechargeable international phone cards. Ferrell also placed a box at her apartment complex, Preserve at Legacy Park in Lawrenceville.

Ferrell, Fondren and Hewes have also sold brownies, "Support the Troops" bracelets, American flag pins, and red, white and blue or yellow ribbons to raise money for Troop Bebop USA. They've also secured a $1,000 grant from Wal-Mart for the nonprofit organization.

Hewes' brother is a Marine who has served time in Iraq.

"I like the satisfaction in knowing that I've done something good," the Lilburn resident said. "Not only is this project for a grade and a wonderful learning experience, it's something that is good for our community."

Troop Bebop was founded by Buford resident Barbara Swenson, nicknamed "Bebop" by her father when she was a small child. She founded the nonprofit agency after retiring from banking several years ago.

"This is not about me, war or politics," Swenson said. "It's about our U.S. military who are stationed overseas and their needs.

"I can always use volunteers like Kim, Amy and Stephanie that will commit to helping me raise revenue, sell things, pass out fliers, wrap and box items for shipping and of course the always needed office help.

"I don't think people realize how expensive it is to ship these items, but I have to do it," Swenson continued. "But what I do is nothing compared to the sacrifices our soldiers make every day. It is my job to make sure they know we are behind them 100 percent."

Community members can drop off items this week at the college or Saturday at the rally. Those wishing to make cash donations to Troop Bebop may send a check to Troop Bebop USA, P.O. Box 492113, Lawrenceville, GA 30043.

SideBar: If you go

· What: U.S. troop rally

· When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

· Where: Wal-Mart, 630 Collins Hill Road, Lawrenceville