CSM Students Send Love to Locals Serving in Afghanistan


U.S. Air Force Men, Women Are Grateful for Support from Homefront

When airmen assigned to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan opened care packages with a postmark from Leonardtown, Md., they knew they were in for a treat. Along with service members from the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, the airmen received boxes filled with special request snacks, toiletries and games—and a photo expressing gratitude from College of Southern Maryland students.

The care packages were part of a Service-Learning project organized by CSM’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society with more than 130 packages sent to service members stationed in Afghanistan, Turkey, Kuwait, Italy, Spain, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and undisclosed locations around the world.

 “It was really important to us to make this project impact our school and local community, so many of the [care packages] went to service members from Southern Maryland including loved ones of CSM faculty and students,” said Chapter President and Project Organizer Kellee Johnson of Leonardtown.

Johnson said that planning for the project took six months and involved coordination with the Student Government Association, Student Associations from La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick campuses, CSM’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success as well as individual contributors. The group bested their goal of 100 care packages by sending 136.

“Our greatest collaborator was Professor Barbara Link and her Service-Learning class who worked with Chopticon High School to donate many items and help prepare the packages,” Johnson said.

“Working with Kellee allowed me to combine two passions: Service-Learning and supporting our troops,” said Link.

Care packages were mailed in November and December and over the course of several months Johnson received word of their success.

“We are simply humbled and grateful by your generosity. As you know, basic items are hard to come by, so we truly enjoy the treats. Thanks again for the care packages and your on-going support,” wrote USAF Senior Master Sgt. Ana Zeinieh.

“As our troops are getting ready to redeploy back to our home stations, I would like to thank all of you for your support to the 557th Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron during these past six months. Your packages and letters meant the world to us and made ‘mail-call’ always fun,” said USAF Master Sgt. Daniel B. Luning.

Each box was filled with items that were specifically requested by a service member, and included a handwritten thank-you card and a group photo of those stateside who participated in the project.

“We wanted to assemble the care package so that when opened, the box would feel like a personal gift from home,” Johnson said.

The project was structured to train students for future endeavors—how to find military addresses, what to include and how to fill out U.S. Customs Service forms.

 “I know of at least five students who have adopted service members on their own after these events and I’m sure there are more,” Johnson said.

Founded in 1918, PTK is the official community college honor society. Membership is based on academic achievement and is conferred only by invitation of the local chapter. The society provides opportunities for students to develop problem solving, project planning, team building, communication and other leadership skills, as well as offering scholarships for continued studies.

For information on Student Life programs and events, visit www.csmd.edu/StudentLife.