Stockings for soldiers collection endures

By NICOLE HENNESSY

AVON – Luke Masisak’s is written on chest. Literally. His shirt reads: ‘Amer-I-Can.’

The emphasis, he said, is on ‘I-Can’ — the classic American spirit that a student from a good family, in a good school, with good grades can realize.

With his sights set firmly on military service, Luke, a junior at Avon High School, is planning a fundraiser to get Christmas stockings full of treats to troops overseas.

Collection boxes will be set up at Avon High School from Oct. 16 through 20. All filled stockings will then make their way to Boatsie’s Boxes, a charity in West Virginia that ships supplies to soldiers all over the world.

For 12 years, the Rambo family has coordinated donations from Avon to Boatsies. Lisa Rambo said she wasn’t planning on doing the stockings this year, since she has a lot going on with her family.

As she spoke over the phone, she watched her 25-year-old son Quinn depart from San Diego, on a boat bound for an aircraft carrier. He’ll be deployed for seven months as a nuclear engineer on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

“I can’t see the boat anymore,” she said, tension in her voice.

Also caring for an elderly family member, Rambo thought this was a year she’d take a break. But she just couldn’t.

“Our service members can’t quit, so I shouldn’t either,” she said.

Rambo’s daughter Sarah, 24, is also in the service: the U.S. Coast Guard. She said this all stemmed from a community service project Sarah did through Boatsie’s back in 8th grade.

“We’ve kind of kept it up as a family ever since.”

Last year, with the help of Luke, the Rambo’s collected 1,200 filled stockings. This year, the goal is a minimum of 500.

Luke is still unsure if he’ll join the Navy or Army, but he knows he wants to be in special operations. Imagining himself overseas, receiving a hand-decorated stocking, he said, ” I think that if I were to get something like this around the holiday season, I would love it because it would give me a little feel for home.”

It’s that feel of home, and the fact that soldiers can’t be with their families that’s driving Luke’s mission.

He also senses a greater calling.

“I feel that God put me on earth to fight for our country, and I just feel like I’m destined to protect the United States,” he said, apologizing for mentioning religion, but standing firmly behind his feelings.

In West Virginia, Boatsie VanVranken answered the phone right away. She said she’s been doing this since 2004, when her son Patrick, who’s now a chief in the Air Force, sent her notice that soldiers in Baghdad were in need of bedding and other items.

“I kind of went door-to-door and asked for donations,” Boatsie said. Soon she got companies involved to make larger donations.

A truck delivering supplies pulled up as she spoke. Relaying her story, she helped it back in.

“To make a long story short, word spread, and now we have probably 20,000 troops under our umbrella,” she said.

Luke realizes it’s a difficult time for America politically, but this doesn’t waver his intent to serve his country. Even now, while in high school, by making sure soldiers are supported.

Thinking of them smiling or even shedding a happy tear, Luke said. “It’s very heartwarming.”

 

FYI:

Stuff stockings to donate with the following items, or donate items individually:

Beef Jerky
Packs of chewing gum
Hard candy
Toothbrushes/toothpaste/dental floss
Bar soap
Packs of playing cards

Handwritten letters or cards with a handprint symbolizing a high five for the soldiers, as well as contact information is encouraged.

A collection box will be set up in the Commons at Avon High School, 37545 Detroit Road, from Oct. 16 through Oct. 20.

Volunteers are also needed to help stuff the stockings at 10 a.m., Oct. 29, at the American legion post 211, 31972 Walker Rd. For more information call 440-668-9597 or email queenofelbur@yahoo.com


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