Teen community service project provides 'Stuff for the Suck'
June 27, 2013
CAMP HUMPHREYS -- Imagine being isolated away from family and friends, surrounded by communities that include those who are dedicated to ending your life and not having access to basic necessities, such as showers or a way to easily get more toothpaste when you run out. For many in the military, it is not necessary to picture this situation since it has been experienced during their time in remote locations. Now, picture receiving a box in the mail that has many of these items from the children of other Soldiers and veterans and the excitement felt as you are reminded that the military is indeed a family and we look after our own.
Operation Care Packages for Deployed Soldiers, also better known as "Stuff for the Suck," is a youth-led initiative started by the sons and daughters of Soldiers to give back to their Army family and show their gratitude for the Soldiers still in harm's way. "The 'Stuff for the Suck' initiative came up during the Pacific Teen Panel and we pushed it to our own installations," said Mjachaelob A. Craig, a 17-year-old family member and the Humphreys representative on the panel. "We call projects like these service learning projects and we do them a couple times a year; they give our youth an opportunity to volunteer and give back to their community."
Craig, the son of Sgt. 1st Class Michael and Lesa Craig, played a key role in working with the other members of the community to turn this from a vision into a reality. He said the support from his peers was overwhelming and they quickly got on board with the program. With such strong ties to the military, he and the other teens organized the project and even convinced units across the installation to compete for prizes sponsored by the Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers program, in a good natured contest to increase the items donated.
"It was supposed to be a complete youth kind of thing, but I knew that the community wanted to jump onboard," said Craig. "The Camp Humphreys BOSS president, Spc. Kareen K. Medeiros, was like 'I would love to help out on this,' so I spoke at several of those meetings and got a lot of support from them. Especially, getting a list of things that would be commonly requested. I sat down with a bunch of veterans and developed a list of things that can be sent and things that would be useful."
Ultimately, Company E, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion won the prize, a 50 dollar gift certificate and a free catered lunch for the whole company, for donating the largest quantity of goods to the program. "I put the information on our company board and the Soldiers really got behind it and participated," said Spc. Jasmine Floyd, the unit BOSS representative. "I got a huge box from them," said Craig. "It was like a solid thirty pounds. I was able to fill three or four boxes just from their donations."
The competition wasn't the only way the teens decided to collect donations. With donation boxes spread out across Camp Humphreys, it was easy for the community to donate items on the list. Also, the teens spread their message on the air waves thanks to the Armed Forces Network and even set up a table in the Post Exchange. "A huge majority of the items we collected were obtained by myself and a few of the other youth going to the Exchange," said Craig.
"We would kind of set up there with our boxes all there and we had an old ammo can that we turned into a change box to collect cash donations. We pushed something like 500 flyers a day. The flyers were like a shopping list so that you could pick something while shopping and make a donation on your way out." Collecting the boxes was just part of the coordination required to make this drive possible. Craig also had to develop a way to get the care packages to those who needed them the most.
"I was trying to find locations that were pretty remote and have very limited access to exchange facilities because if you send them to a place that has a movie theater and Burger King, it would be wasted because they have access to things and it would not be helping anyone that way," said Craig. "So, I pushed out what I was looking for through BOSS and other people I know and they gave me a list of locations. I then reached out to find senior enlisted Soldiers at the locations who could be in charge of distributing them from that point." The community response was large, allowing the teens to ship boxes of care packages to several different locations in Afghanistan.