by Diane H. VanDyke

SPRING CITY PA – Recently several students from Montgomery County Community College met with children at Spring City Elementary School to ask for their help in extending some joy to soldiers currently serving in the military.

The children’s responses were overwhelming.

The winning picture, center, in Spring City Elementary School's "Sunshine For Soldiers" project, was created by fourth-grader Matt Taylor. Runner-up winners are, clockwise from top left, Kaytlin Rotondi, Taylor Santiago, Ryan Larkins, and Daniel Kuklinski. Many of the students wrote messages thanking soldiers for their bravery and courage.

For the “Sunshine for Soldiers” project, the children in kindergarten through fourth grade created pictures depicting what a soldier means to them. Many drew pictures of helicopters, soldiers and tanks and used red, white and blue colors. Their heartfelt, hand-printed messages included words of thanks, praise for the soldiers’ courage and bravery and appreciation for keeping them and our country safe.

This is the second year members of Doug’s Corner, a community-service group located at the college’s West Campus in Pottstown, have done such a project with the elementary school.

“The children enjoy when we present the project, because we have soldiers from the Army National Guard and teachers who are veterans dress in their military attire and answer questions,” said club president Krysta DiSabatino. “They ask a lot of questions.”

As an extra incentive, the club awarded prizes to five students who drew the best pictures. Sergeant First Class David Weller, Staff Sergeant Tiffany Mondragon, Private First Class Anthony Heimback and reading specialist Marylu Onorato served as judges. SFC Weller and Private First Class Jonathan Dotterer fielded the children’s questions.

Fourth grader Matt Taylor won first prize, which included a Toys ‘R Us gift card and a pizza party for his class. The four runner-up winners, who each received a gift card, are Kaytlin Rotondi, Daniel Kuklinski, Taylor Santiago and Ryan Larkins. A total of 54 students participated; some created more than one picture.

Sunshine for Soldiers is only one of several projects that members of Doug’s Corner host throughout the year. They also:

  • Assisted last fall with the Pottstown YMCA Halloween Safe House;
  • Went trick or treating for canned goods and non-perishable items to fill about 70 bags for the Jerusalem Pantry in Schwenksville;
  • Collected signed holiday cards to send to the troops;
  • Participated with The (Pottstown PA) Mercury’s Operation Holiday;
  • Provided an informational table during the college’s Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week;
  • Assisted with the Stuff-A-Plush program; and
  • Held a book swap.

Currently, club members are planning several events for Earth Day, including bingo, posters and a nature walk.

The group consists of a few dedicated students. In addition to DiSabatino, Jessica Judyski serves as vice president, Liz Wilson as secretary, and Candance Hageter as treasurer. Cynthia Murphy, college administrative assistant for Career Services and Student Leadership and Involvement, is the adviser and has worked with the group since its inception seven years ago.

“It started with four students during their first semester here,” Murphy said. “They wanted to help with The (Pottstown PA) Mercury’s Operation Holiday, which raises money for needy families at Christmas time. They set up a table in the lobby, and within four days, they raised more than $400.”

Unlike some other student clubs, Doug’s Corner has no requirements to become a member. Any student who wants to do community service is welcomed.

“Over the years, the club’s membership has fluctuated from a few students to as many as 10 to 15 members,” Murphy said. “They’ve done numerous fundraisers for a variety of organizations and causes, such as the Hurricane Katrina relief, American Cancer Society, Pottstown Cluster Outreach, American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Open Door Pantry.”

The club was named after one of the founding teens, Doug Stanley. The initial members, David Woodley, Jerry Schwartz and Sheena Myers, met in the corner of the lobby to make their plans.

“It’s been great being associated with them,” Murphy said. “The students are good people, who are very dedicated to helping others.”

Photo by Diane H. VanDyke

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