SRU student group to send University-themed packages to military personnel
Slippery Rock University students from the Military Support Group gathered Nov. 15 in the Smith Student Center, to decorate packages and write letters that will be sent to active-duty military members. Photo by Benton Palermo, a senior communication: digital media major from Beaver.
Nov. 16, 2017
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - If the soldier in the country music song "Letters from Home" were a Slippery Rock University graduate, the songwriter would have to add an extra verse about the personalized letter he received from an SRU student, along with a box of snacks, toiletries, crafts, University T-shirts and other souvenirs from area businesses.
Each year, the Military Support Group, a student organization at SRU, decorates packages, writes letters and collects items that it sends to SRU alumni who are serving in the armed forces. The group hosted its annual Care Package Event, Nov. 15 at the Smith Student Center, to decorate the boxes and write letters. The group will reconvene in March to pack all the items and ship them.
"We try to get a little taste of SRU in each box so when they open it they feel like their University still cares about them and they are still a part of the SRU family," said Sierra Ginther, a junior marketing major from Weedville, who is a past president and current treasurer of the Military Support Group. "You're not just here for four years; it's something that follows you forever."
In addition to helping active-duty alumni, the group comforts students who have family members serving overseas and supports other military-connected members of the campus community.
"(The group) started out as a support group where we wanted everybody to get together and discuss any issues they are having when their loved ones were away," said Samantha Figard, a sophomore English literature major from Altoona, who is the current club president.
Kara Werkmeister, '14, whose boyfriend was in the U.S. Navy, started the club. After Werkmeister graduated, students like Ginther were instrumental in continuing the group. It became an officially recognized student organization in 2015.
Ginther's brother, Shane, is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, who was stationed in Japan for three years but is now in North Carolina.
"I've been very motivated because (military members) mean a lot to me," said Ginther, whose brother will be home for Thanksgiving for the first time in three years. "I know what they do for us and they deserve a lot more than anything we can ever do for them."
While regular Military Support Group meetings attract 10-15 students each, the previous Care Package Events drew more than 100 students. Organizers encourage all SRU students to participate, even those like Figard who have no military connections.
The care packages, which are medium-sized, flat rate boxes from the U.S. Postal Service, are decorated from the inside so that they unfold like a large greeting card.
While all of the care packages are different, the students try to give them an SRU-theme, such as featuring drawings of Rocky, the SRU mascot, using a stencil with sayings such as "rock-solid support" or "You rock!"
New for this year, the Military Support Group is accepting names and addresses of military members who are not SRU alumni, but who are friends and relatives of SRU students, faculty and staff. Donations are being accepted through March, when the group plans to pack and send the care packages.
For more information, or to submit donations or the name and address of a military member who should receive a care package, contact Figard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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