Shelby Borisman, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, remembers listening to her grandfather’s stories of valor.
“My grandpa was a soldier,” said Borisman, a member of Parkland’s Teen Advisory Group (TAG). “He enjoyed telling me stories. I know that soldiers lead a pretty tough life.”
When TAG members decided to support the Forgotten Soldier Outreach Collection Drive for the third time in as many years, the Coral Springs resident was among the first to sign up. Twelve of TAG’s 40 members are involved in the project; donations will be accepted until Nov. 27.
“Three years ago, we participated in Operation Shoebox,” said GerriAnn Dougherty, the city’s Parks and Recreation program manager. “Since then, we have supported the Forgotten Soldier Outreach program. Last year, we were able to donate more items than we did the previous year. This time, we plan to do even more.”
The nonprofit organization was founded by Lynelle Zelnar, who wanted to help Kristopher Knight, her friend’s son who was serving in Iraq. From initially sending out five boxes containing care packages for Knight and two of his friends, the organization has, in nine years, grown to send care packages and letters of encouragement to hundreds of American soldiers serving abroad.
“The organization sends care packages every month to about 600 soldiers that it supports,” Dougherty said. “We do this only in November. They have some special requests around the holidays. It is not just about donating money or items; one can write letters, draw pictures or volunteer to package items.”
City staff will join TAG members on a trip to the organization’s Lake Worth facility on Dec. 2, for a day of box packing.
“Our members are writing letters and collecting as many items as they can,” Dougherty said. “We had eight collection boxes last year. This year, we have 15. We collected over $5,000 in donated items last year. We hope to exceed that this year, because we have a couple of clubs and churches who have gotten involved.”
Stephanie Eisenberg, a ninth-grader at Douglas High, said she is happy to be a part of the project. “It is always a good thing to raise money for great causes. I am trying to get as many people as I can to donate.”
Fellow Douglas freshman Emma Sachs agreed. “This is my first year with the club. It is great to be involved with the city and to help out those who really need our support.”
Member Gaby Kass said, “I love helping people. It makes me feel good. We want our soldiers to know that we are there for them. I have been making flyers informing people about our collection drive.”
Also involved is Catherine Crocker, of Mary Help of Christians School. “This is my way of giving back to the community,” she said. “Our soldiers are good for the country. I needed service hours, and I also wanted to be involved in the community.”
Among the items that TAG members are collecting are travel-size tubes of sun block, lip balm, dental floss, travel-size packages of baby wipes, playing cards, batteries, beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, shaving cream, men’s deodorant, foiled tuna packets and hard candy. The organization has also requested such items as Q-tips, Ramen Noodles, Twix candy bars, “K” cups for Keurig coffee makers, toothbrushes, travel-size bottles of mouthwash and other toiletries.
The collection drive locations are Douglas High, Park Trails Elementary School, Riverglades Elementary School, Heron Heights Elementary School, Parkland YMCA Family Center, Parkland Library, Pine Trails Park Amphitheater and Parkland Ranches and Wellspring Church.
“We have a lot of people donating items and money around this time because of Christmas and other holidays,” said Jeanelle Avallone, assistant to the executive director of Forgotten Soldier Outreach. “We also need monetary donations so that we can post the packages overseas. We will not be able to accomplish our mission without the help of volunteers and the community.”
To get involved, contact GerriAnn Dougherty at 954-757-4129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.