The collected food, entertainment and personal hygiene items will be used to create care packages that will be delivered to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving abroad who have ties to Greater Hazleton. Numerous school groups, businesses and individuals from throughout Greater Hazleton participated in the collection of the items.
Charles Burkhardt, Student Action Committee co-adviser, thanked the community for its generosity to this year’s Operation: CAN DO drive and urged community members to share the names and contact information of any military members with ties to Greater Hazleton.
Nancy Stasko, Student Action Committee co-adviser, said, “Operation: CAN DO is a very heartwarming project for the Student Action Committee members each year because it’s a chance for the community to come together to show support to the servicemen and servicewomen from our community who commit their lives to serving our country.”
Operation: CAN DO began in 2005 as an idea that was mentioned by one of the students during a Student Action Committee meeting. The students wanted to find a project where they could help the community and began by reaching out to schools for donations. The drive has since branched out to include donations from businesses and the community.
CAN DO has partnered with the Freeland American Legion since the drive’s inception. The American Legion manages the shipping of the items to the soldiers abroad. Members of the Student Action Committee once again expressed their gratitude on Thursday to Commander Gerald Gaffney and other members of the Freeland American Legion in recognition of their continued assistance with the program and their dedication to the men and women of the United States military.
CAN DO President Kevin O’Donnell said, “This annual Operation: CAN DO drive would not be possible without the partnership we have with the Freeland American Legion. On behalf of CAN DO, I’d also like to express our gratitude to everyone who organized a collection or made a monetary donation to help us honor our military members.”
Student Action Committee members expressed special thanks to Lehigh Tire for donating the truck the committee used to transport the donations from Arc Electric to the Freeland American Legion building. Thanks were extended to Arc Electric for providing warehouse space for the collection. Some additional donors included: Bradley Caldwell, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, Fabri-Kal, First Quality Nonwovens, Freeland Elementary/Middle School Builders Club, Gonnella, Gottstein Corporation, Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences, Hazleton Area High School, Immanuel Christian School, Landmark Community Bank, Manufacturers and Employers Association, Marian High School, Mid Penn Bank, MMI Preparatory School, NBTY, PA Monument Company, PSI Container, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 44, Valley Elementary/Middle School and Weatherly Area High School.
The Student Action Committee is made up of local high school students appointed to serve as members of CAN DO’s board of directors. This year’s Operation: CAN DO co-chairs are Michael Kulish, of Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences, and Alexandra Rentz, of Hazleton Area High School. Additional members of this year’s committee are: Stephanie Mazurek, James “JT” Vozar, and Francine Lamasko of Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences; Mark Abdelmalek, Angelina Joseph and Vincent Damiano of Hazleton Area High School; Christopher Danishefsky and Saraiha Rossi of Immanuel Christian School; Corrin Dagostin, Isabella Schwabe and Grace Mussoline of Marian High School; Jakob Schwabe and Morgan Long of MMI Preparatory School; and Jillian Bartel and Nikki Polivka of Weatherly Area High School. Charles Burkhardt also serves as a Student Action Committee adviser.
The CAN DO Student Action Committee helps coordinate several programs and events in the community. One of those events is the annual CAN DO Community Christmas, which will be held Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at Christ Lutheran Church in downtown Hazleton.