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John Gregg Students Bring Smiles to Soldiers, Seniors

Students brought smiles to soldiers and seniors by sending more than 2,000 holiday messages through their third annual Operation Christmas Card campaign.

  A total of 2,245 cards filled with colorings, decorations and original notes were sent across the area, the country and the world around Thanksgiving, with a total of 1,100 cards lifting the spirits of troops stationed away from home. Military personnel responded in kind with emails, videos and photos thanking the children for their kindness, particularly during the holiday season.

  The project was created by school librarian Hannah Boggs, who was influenced by a television movie and said the matter struck close to home.

  “I was inspired by the movie “The Christmas Card,” which was about a woman’s church that sent cards to soldiers. I thought it was a great thing to do and my husband was a Marine,” Boggs said. “I know, especially during the holidays, that care packages mean a lot to the troops and it has been very successful.”

   Operation Christmas Card began prior to COVID and recipients have included Edison alumni and local residents in service, and she said many messages were passed on to their brothers and sisters in arms.

   Boggs has reached out to others within her family, the schools and community for military contacts and received names of local natives serving stateside and overseas. The school’s estimated 375 PreK-6 students then spent eight weeks coloring, decorating and writing in the cards in the fall, which were then sorted and proofread by Boggs and members of the Edison High School Beta Club and eventually sent to the soldiers. The cards have traveled to such places as South Carolina, Guam, the Middle East and Japan, and military members have been grateful for the thoughtfulness.

   “Each year, I contact the same person and they forward me to people in the service, plus [district website coordinator] Jamie Evans put it online and I received names that way. I sent to 11 individual places with 100 cards in each envelope,” she added.

    In response, the school has received emails of gratitude as well as photos of cards being displayed at the troops’ stations and videos aboard Navy ships. Brothers Collin and Derrick McMasters also visited the school prior to the holiday break to thank students in person. Collin, who serves as an airman first class in the U.S. Air Force in Guam, and Derrick, who is a fireman in the U.S. Navy and stationed in South Carolina, related how they were touched by the sentiments.

   “They said it was difficult being away from home and their family, but just knowing there are people out there thinking of them was wonderful.”

   AIC McMasters also expressed himself in an email.

   “Thank you for the Christmas cards. I was surprised when I opened the package to lots of cards almost falling out of my hands,” he wrote. “The first thing I did when I got back to my room was open and read all [of them]. I love all the drawings and inspiring words.”

   More emails from other soldiers noted their appreciation for the well wishes.

   “One of the brightest parts of this holiday season was receiving your thoughtful, amazing and beautiful cards from John Gregg Elementary School,” stated U.S. Army National Guard Capt. Yancey Reynoso, who was stationed in the Middle East with the 369th Special Troops Battalion. “As I distributed the Christmas cards, soldiers’ faces lit up with joy and happiness. The excitement of receiving a card…made our soldiers feel valued, appreciated and loved.”

   Capt. Reynoso also provided photos of soldiers thanking the students and holding some of their cards.

   U.S. Navy MM3 Dakota Woods added that fellow sailors were very excited to receive their cards and replied with photos aboard their ship from England, Germany, Spain and other locations.

  “I just wanted to say thank you so much for the cards. It was a really nice surprise to receive.”

   Boggs noted that the kids were equally thrilled by the impact they’ve made on the lives of those in the Armed Forces.

   “Every year, we get certificates, medals, postcards and thank-you cards,” she commented, saying the responses were posted on the school televisions and social media. “The students were very excited. I think it made them see we’re really doing some good.”

  Additionally, students have brightened the lives of senior citizens in area nursing homes by sending Christmas and Valentine cards to facilities in Steubenville and Carrollton with another 827 cards mailed to a site in Minnesota.

   Boggs said it is a vast undertaking, but it one she enjoys doing.

   “I love the responses. I look forward to doing this every year,” she said. “I don’t do this project in hopes of getting recognition; I do it for the kids because I think it’s good to teach them to think of others, especially during the holiday. We do it to spread Christmas cheer to the ones who sacrifice so much to ensure our safety.”