In an effort that started in early November, students in all the second grade classes at Dent Elementary have provided a little bit of holiday cheer to servicemembers around the world.
“All the second grade classes sent in items or money,” said teacher Katie Bartelink, one of the coordinators of the care package project. “We start it right after Halloween because a lot of the kids donate their extra candy.”
The boxes are packed with a variety of treats from candy to beef jerky to gum; toiletries and many letters and cards from the students, along with a note from the ‘second grade team’ at Dent.
“We just put it out there to the universe,” Bartelink added of getting donations, many of which come from the students and their families, along with some general donations from the public.
This year, she said, they also were surprised and excited to have gotten a significant cash donation from a ‘Secret Santa’ specifically to help defray the cost of those boxes getting shipped overseas.
The money they would have used for that was instead available to purchase additional items to pack more boxes.
“We did send some to Qatar and Kuwait,” Bartelink said, with other boxes going elsewhere overseas and many this year going to bases across the United States.
Recipients were in such diverse locations as Texas, Georgia and Hawaii.
“It takes about three or four weeks to collect the items and then we do the packing,” explained Bartelink. “We package it all up until it’s gone; this year we had 15 boxes, which was a record high.”
The effort has been going on for the past several years, started when a youngster in Bartelink’s class wanted to remember her cousin in the service at Christmas time. It has grown from there and now is a total second grade team effort, Bartelink said.
One of this year’s boxes was sent to Garrett Nash, who is in the Navy serving stateside and whose mother, Carrie Nash, teaches fourth grade at Dent Elementary. He graduated from Escalon High School in 2020.
Brightly colored, handmade cards by the students are among the items most loved by the recipients, not to mention some sweet treats they don’t often have access to while on duty.
The note from the second grade team, included in each box, carries the following message:
“Dear Service Member,
Just sending some hugs, prayers, appreciation, and goodies that our second graders have collected here at Dent Elementary in Escalon, CA. These kiddos have loved getting to learn about the branches of the military and all the sacrifices you and your families have made. We hope you enjoy the items in your box. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Sending prayers and positive vibes for you and yours.”
Second grade classes involved included those of teachers Mrs. Gregory, Mrs. Sanchez, Mrs. Pettitt, Mrs. Shultz, Mrs. Lueck and Mrs. Bartelink.