Missouri Kids Kick Off "Operation Adopt a Military Hero"

George Lauer sends this terrific story from Middle Missouri:

This high school project to collect money and useful items for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan was the idea of Jefferson City High School students.

Santa arrived at the kickoff today in a military vehicle.

JCHS senior Robin Phillips directs Brian Crider, right, and Chance Sommerer where to place a box of donated items at the Operation Adopt A Hero storage site. (Julie
Smith/News Tribune photo)

Early Christmas for the troops
By Michelle Brooks
[email protected]

Even before being wounded while serving with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, Don Hentges knew the value of gifts sent from home. Then while recuperating in a hospital in Japan, he received letters not only from friends and family but also from strangers – children.

“That was neat, it really made me feel good,” Hentges said. “The fact that the caring was from the community, that makes a person feel awful proud that the community is thinking of them and appreciates what they’re doing.” Hentges, the president of the Jefferson City Veterans Council, was one of many veterans of past conflicts who turned out Wednesday to promote the kick off of Operation Adopt a Hero.

The project, which was the idea of Jefferson City High School students, will collect items and money through Oct. 25. Then packages will be shipped to troops with ties to Jefferson City who won’t be home for Christmas.

“People are surprised that high schoolers are the soul behind this,” said Hannah Brenneke, Ambassador Club president. “But high schoolers are like everybody else, we want to support the troops, we have family overseas too.”

All public and parochial schools, civic organizations, and business have been invited to participate this year. They include Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 35 in St. Martins, which will host an open house and bingo event at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 to collect names of servicemen and donations for Adopt a Hero.

“In past years, it’s just been JC,” Brenneke said. “We wanted to get the whole community involved.”

Organizers hope to collect 150 names of soldiers, airmen, marines or sailors. Then their goal is to fill “Santa’s Shed” at the Coca-Cola Community Room to the ceiling with gift items from hygiene products and snacks to activities and books.

But they will also need as much as $10,000 in donations for postage expenses.

The open house event was only the beginning, said Jefferson City High School counselor Chris Jarboe.


Santa arrived for the open house in a military vehicle with an entourage of civilian emergency vehicles from fire trucks to an armored van to a police motorcycle.

Artists from Jefferson City High School’s orchestra and art departments helped provide the festive ambiance for Jack Steppelman’s event.


George Lauer has more on “Operation Adopt a Hero” including video from today’s event.

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