February 26, 2008

C.U. Democrats Prepare to Send Care Packages to Troops in Iraq

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In an effort to connect the Cornell community with those serving in the Iraq War, the Cornell Democrats have begun collecting goods in order to put together care packages and send them overseas.
Packages will be sent to the 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion located at Camp Victory at the Baghdad International Airport. The C.U. Democrats expect to send the first package by Spring Break.
Throughout the month, the Cornell Democrats will collect a variety of products ranging from non-perishable food to travel games in order to provide the troops with entertainment for their spare time.
The items they will collect include products most people take for granted because of how easy they are to obtain. The Cornell Democrats are asking for snacks, microwaveable food, games, puzzles, Ziploc Bags, writing tablets and envelopes so troops can contact people outside of Iraq.
This project serves as way to give back to the troops who are currently fighting for the U.S. abroad. President of the Cornell Democrats Randy Lariar ’08 said, “Our goal is to collect enough materials to send a package over there that the troops can appreciate and use. We have heard that there is a real need for things from back home — books to read, magazines, movies, etc. — and we know that nearly everyone at Cornell has something they take for granted that could be donated to help out.”
At the helm of this project is Sam Morgante ’09, vice president of the Cornell Democrats, whose family friend is currently serving at Camp Victory. Morgante said that he mobilized other students to send care packages to troops overseas back in 2004 when he was a high school student.
He was motivated to start a similar program at Cornell,after remembering how thankful his friend and her company were after receiving these packages.
“We sent three large cardboard crates in high school and they greatly appreciated it. I figured why not get involved with [the program] again?” Morgante said.
The care packages the C.U. Democrats are putting together will serve 250 individuals in the battalion, which is comprised of 5 companies. Each company contains 50 to 60 soldiers and 30 to 40 civilians and contractors. The C.U. Democrats will begin sending out these packages once they have enough goods to serve several people.
Ethan Felder ’09, director of public relations for the C.U. Democrats, is trying to enlist the help of as many organizations on campus in order to spread information and awareness about the project.
He said, “We are trying to increase awareness so we can increase the size of the package. It is basically a work in progress. We have been collecting stuff at our weekly meetings.”
The C.U. Democrats will have a collection site at their weekly meetings held every Wednesday in 165 McGraw. In addition, many members of the Dems said they will start collection sites in dorms and Greek houses on campus. Several members have already begun to collect goods from their fraternities.
Morgante said, “Ideally, this is going to be a constant process and not a one time deal. Once we collect enough goods and reach a ‘critical mass,’ we will ship a package over.”
One of the objectives the C.U. Democrats hope to achieve with this program is to further engage the Cornell community in the world.
Morgante touched upon the idea of developing a “pen pals” program to provide the troops with letters from home and not email in order to bridge the geographical divide.
“We want to not only remind the Cornell Community of the extraordinary heroism shown by American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in Iraq, but to also hopefully engage the entire campus in this,” Lariar said.
In order to develop a strong connection between the person sending the package and the individual receiving it, Morgante explained the importance of sending items that bear an identifying characteristic of the sender — in this case, the Cornell logo.
“Coffee mugs covered with the school logo are very popular, because it establishes that connection. Really, we are taking anything at this point. It will be appreciated by someone,” Morgante said.