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Middle school students send gifts to aircraft carrier crew members


THIS CHRISTMAS, a group of North Carroll Middle School students is sending a touch of home to all 6,000 crew members of the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier that left Nov. 6 for six months in the Persian Gulf.

For 130 of the service men and women, that homestyle touch included gift packages and goody bags of candy and snacks.

It's part of a year-long project of corresponding with 130 of the Navy personnel to share ideas and learn about geography, current events and commitment.

Of Team 7, or about one-third of the eighth grade at North Carroll and their teachers, 124 are voluntarily participating in the project, donating their study period to compose letters and design fund-raisers. The students are 12 and 13 years old.

Many have written several times to their crew pals, exchanging details of family, school and hobbies. For Christmas, they wrote one card for every sailor aboard.

"We thought it would be neat to write to active-duty service men and women, and an aircraft carrier goes out for six months," said Mike Chrvalla, the team's social studies teacher who put the students in touch with the Enterprise in September.

"Last year, we wrote to personnel on the USS Nimitz and it was very successful. The Enterprise has said, 'We'll do better than they did.' It's become a matter of competition," Chrvalla said.

On Friday, students and teachers assembled in the cafeteria to stuff chocolate, snack bars, chips and cookies into bags and then into boxes for mailing. They had held a fund-raiser to earn money for the treats.

Many students also packed special gifts, letters and single-use cameras they purchased on their own.

Mark Thomas had packed a large box. "I wrote out a list, and went out last night and bought this stuff," Mark said. "There's a Nerf football, Santa hat, tinsel to do up his bunk, and an electronic game of solitaire."

"They should get the packages before Christmas," said Kevin Cunningham, who had put in a bag of popcorn to cushion candy canes, a crossword puzzle book, a letter with pictures and hot cocoa.

Ryan Kraushofer enclosed his second letter with extra goodies. Ryan, who enjoys golf, has discovered a crew pal with the same interests. "He played golf for Penn State. That's where I want to go for turf management," Ryan said.

"I plan to be a veterinarian," said Anne Marie Anderson, who sent a stuffed fabric tree and ornaments to hang on a bunk. "My crew pal wrote me how school is so important, and how his life on the ship has changed him, how he learned what he can do without," she said.

A rec night the students held in October raised funds for the care packages. Kevin Richardson sold sodas and the homemade baked goods that students consumed between playing video games they brought from home or dancing to hTC student disc jockeys.

"We teachers have crew pals, too," said Rebecca Purdum, the team's reading teacher. "We share the information as we get it. I've read such neat crew pal letters sent to the kids. One student had written he wasn't getting along with his sister, and the response was that they should try to get along," Purdum said.

Student efforts are supported by team teachers. In addition to Chrvalla and Purdum, Cindy Dukes, who teaches language arts, helps students write letters. Math teacher Shelly Eyler helped purchase snacks and pack boxes. She writes to a female F-14 pilot. Ted Payne, science teacher, helps, too.

They all learn of unusual careers and cramped quarters. Jenny Sterner's crew pal supervises a photography group that films fighter plane landings.

"He told me of his living space, how it's very small. He shares a 15-by-15-foot room with three others," said Tim Lowe.

"My crew pal, she wants to make the Navy her whole life. I'm proud, but you'd be away your whole life. It makes me wonder, do I want that in my future?" said Jodi Shamer.

Two days after deployment, two planes collided on the deck of the Enterprise and four crew members were killed. One had been a crew pal.

"I learned how easy it is to die," said Kevin Bollinger. "It's always dangerous. I was sorry for their families."

"It was so surprising, it wasn't even in battle," said Greg Friedman, whose brother recently joined the Air Force.

Jessica Perry composed a sympathy poem that students signed and sent with condolence letters.

"We really care about them," said Kelly Rhoten, who has written four times. "And we appreciate what they're doing for us."

"The crew pals are very grateful because it brings a piece of home to them," Purdum said.

Information: North Carroll Middle School, 410-751-3440.

Christmas trees

When we last looked, more than 30 trees had been sold at Christmas Tree Park by the members of the Lineboro/Manchester Lions Club. The trees are harvested fresh from Pine Valley Park by the Lions.

They've also made door swags and offer musical discs and finely detailed lawn decorations painted by local artist Nancy Kramer.

Pick out the perfect tree from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Fraser fir, scotch pine, white pine and blue spruce are offered.

The tree sale supports two annual $1,000 scholarships granted to North Carroll High School seniors and a wide variety of Lions Club community service activities.

Information: Romaine Harper, 410-374-9330.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 12/16/98

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