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500 more care packages will be headed overseas

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007

With 3,211 packages sent so far at a cost of about $145,050, members of the CAHS Patriots organization at Connellsville Area High School are again stepping up their fundraising efforts in order to send 500 more care packages during the holiday season to service members deployed overseas.

Linda Shearer, faculty adviser and founder of the organization, said she already has started collecting items that will go into the packages, "but it's the cost of shipping that really challenges the group. It averages about $9 per package," she said.

Another challenge is coming up with new ways and new ideas to raise the money needed for the project, she said.

This year, Shearer sent out about 270 letters to area businesses asking them to donate $25 to the organization.

In turn, the organization would hang a patriotic banner in the hallway near the high school auditorium acknowledging that business for their donation.

"The banners will be up all year, so when people from the community come in for different school functions like the musical or class plays, they will see the banners and know who supported our organization," Shearer said.

To date, 37 businesses have responded to the organization's request. The Patriots, however, have taken the banner idea one step further and offered them to students for $1 each.

Nearly 300 students have spent the dollar to further the cause, Shearer said.

Another unique fundraiser this year is the Patriots teaming with Kathryn's Jewelry Store in Connellsville.

Owner Kathryn Orszulak and manager Joe Orszulak have committed to donating to the organization $1 for every gold chain they sell from Oct. 1 to Nov. 20, the date the packages will be mailed.

The Orszulaks have been supporting the organization since its inception to honor Joe Orszulak's father and uncle who were both veterans of World War I.

"We've always been supportive of anything that has to do with the troops," Joe Orszulak said. "We donated about 1,000 American flag pins to the organization, and we've just always been supportive of our government and our troops."

Shearer said the Orszulaks came up with the idea to donate based on gold chain sales.

"They realize just how much it matters and they appreciate their freedom, so they made the decision to team up with us to help advance our efforts," she said.

Shearer added that it's never too early for area residents to start their Christmas shopping.

"Gold never goes out of style, and it always fits," she said.

This year, there are 27 active students in the Patriots.

Senior Bryce Beeghley said he first joined his sophomore year because he thought Shearer was so nice.

"Then I realized what a difference we made, and I realized how important it is for us to strive to reach our potential every day," he said.

Senior Brent Lint said he has been involved for two years.

"I heard on the announcements that they were getting organized again, and I thought I could help make a difference," he said. "They're over there risking their lives for us, so how could I be so selfish not to act."

Shearer said they will continue their efforts until all of the troops come home.

"It doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon regardless of who's in office, so we have our work cut out for us," she added.

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