Share This Page

Plum students deliver annual load of supplies for Cookies for Our Troops

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 1:26 a.m.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Sam Lombardo, owner of Sam's Pop and Beer Shop in Arnold, talks to a group of Plum High School students about the soldiers that Cookies for Our Troops has helped for 11 years. The students, members of Plum's junior ROTC program and Girls' Leaders Association, collected supplies for the soldiers and delivered them on Friday, May 2, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Sam Lombardo, owner of Sam's Pop and Beer Shop in Arnold, talks to a group of Plum High School students about the soldiers Cookies for Our Troops has helped for 11 years. The students, members of Plum's junior ROTC program and Girls' Leaders Association, collected supplies for the soldiers and delivered them on Friday, May 2, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Sam Lombardo, left, owner of Sam's Pop Shop in Arnold, talks to Victor Flink, 15, of Plum and other students from Plum High School about the soldiers Cookies for Our Troops has helped for 11 years. The students, members of Plum's junior ROTC program and Girls' Leaders Association, collected supplies for the soldiers and delivered them on Friday, May 2, 2014.

Sam Lombardo of New Kensington on Friday encouraged Plum High School students to step up whenever they see a need in the community.

“If you see something that needs to be done, don't wait for the next guy to do it,” he said. “It doesn't take long to learn.”

Lombardo then explained how he, an Arnold business owner who had no direct connection to the military, came to spearhead Cookies for Our Troops.

The nonprofit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to send care packages to troops stationed overseas.

The students, members of either Plum's junior ROTC program or Girls' Leader Association, visited Sam's Pop and Beer Shop on Friday to deliver two pallets' worth of supplies that students throughout the district had donated since January.

Amy Martello, a Plum English teacher and the GLA's new adviser, said the organization has been collecting items annually for Cookies for Our Troops for at least eight years.

Students Danielle Hiener, a senior, and Jessica Denzer, a junior, helped organize the collection this year.

“I feel it's really important to help the soldiers because they give up so much for us,” Hiener said. “And it's nice to have all the schools in the district come together for this.”

“Our goal is to promote community services,” said Tim Conley, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who teaches the JROTC program with Terry Speer.

How ‘Cookies' began

Lombardo told the students the initiative began 11 years ago with a request for donations for a going-away party for New Kensington-based reservists and recollections from a veteran of the homemade cookies he anticipated while serving in Vietnam.

The plan to ship cookies to Afghanistan and Iraq soon morphed into weekly care packages of snacks, toiletries, tools and entertainment.

The shipments grew to include funnel cake machines, popcorn machines, microwaves, pizza ovens and Christmas trees.

Lombardo estimated he's mailed four pallets of Girl Scout cookies and 10 tons of freezer pops to soldiers over the years.

He said there has only been a few weeks in which nothing has been mailed.

Even as the U.S. presence in the Middle East dwindles, Lombardo said he continues to send packages to every soldier whose name and address he is given — and usually to their entire unit.

“Every name we get now, there's always 30 to 40 guys attached,” he said. “You might as well take care of all of them.”

He said they're regularly sending packages to five units — for a total of about 150 troops.

Lombardo showed the students one of the 13 binders he's filled with thank-you letters and pictures of soldiers enjoying their treats.

“This is how I get paid for doing this,” he said.

He passed around one of the “challenge coins” — medallions with military insignias used for morale — that he has been given as a gift from a grateful Springdale-area soldier.

He also displayed one of about 30 American flags he's been sent, this one from a Chinook helicopter that operated in Afghanistan.

Eventually, Lombardo plans to display the many flags, coins, memorabilia, pictures and letters he has received.

But not yet: “I won't hang any of them until this war is over.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.