May 25, 2018
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A care package full of hugs

By Debra Bell, Weekly Staff Writer

In Bangor, 75 third grade students from the Downeast Elementary School worked together to bring holiday cheer to deployed troops overseas.

And they did it through the simple act of decorating and personalizing paper mittens with heartfelt messages.

“You have done an awesome job.”

“God, God, please protect our soldiers. Hope you’re not cold this winter.”

“While you’re away protecting our country, I’m at home protecting my family.”

“Thank you so much. Thinking of you. Here’s a card to make you think of me.”

“Dear army, thank you for saving the world and defeating the bad guys and keeping us safe. Thank you so much. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving and a great Christmas-Good Job. By Michael.”

The project, spearheaded by Changing Seasons Federal Credit Union marketing officer Tina Morrill, stemmed from the innocence of three-year-old Danica’s craft project. The little one, with help from her mother, made and decorated simple handprints then connected them with yarn. Then, Danica exclaimed, “look, I’ve wrapped myself in a hug.”

Morrill, inspired by the thought in Danica’s art project, decided to go one step further. The credit union queried third grade classes in the Bangor School Department for assistance in creating “Mittens from Maine.”

The Downeast Elementary School was the first school to answer the call.

“We selected third graders because they’re becoming more aware of the surrounding communities,” Morrill said. “They’re also starting to develop good writing skills and we believed the messages would be truly heartfelt. Just reading what the kids wrote made me tear up.”

Principal Richard Fournier noted the decision to participate in this project was an important way for the kids to develop community awareness.

“It’s important for students to do community service projects that touch the lives of many people, especially troops, over the season,” Fournier said. In addition, he said, it helps develop a sense of ownership in the community and an awareness that helping others, even in a small way, is important.

“Not only are the troops getting something from us to cheer them up, they’re also getting a hug,” Morrill said.

For some children, she noted, the experience is personal.

“[Some of the children] had relatives, brothers, sisters, or dads in the service, so they were talking about it on a really personal level,” Morrill said.

Each pair of “mittens” is connected by a length of string simulating the arm span of a child. With the 75 pairs of mittens collected, Changing Seasons will work with Family Services at the Air Guard Base to disseminate the mittens to troops overseas in time for the holidays.

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