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Junior ROTC collecting for needy

By Staff | Nov 21, 2014

The Jefferson High School chapter of the Air Force Junior ROTC is collecting money for the schools 10th annual Shoe and Coat Fund drive.

Students will visit neighbors, friends and community members throughout the next few weeks to collect monetary donations on behalf of the cause.

The program benefits disadvantaged children in Jefferson County who need new shoes and coats for the winter.

Shepherdstown resident, 17 year-old cadet colonel Gabby Lovell said she thinks the drive contributes something important.

“We have a really large percentage of children in the county who don’t have shoes and coats,” she said.

“We have a lot of schools that are walking schools and children that are walking to school in the cold It’s really dangerous,” she said.

According to faculty leader, retired United States Air Force sergeant Jason Morris, the students adopted the community project as part of a Junior ROTC curriculum dedicated to leadership development.

“The Cadets ROTC Mission is to develop citizens of character dedicated to serving their nation and community,” he said.

According to retired United States Air Force major and program leader, Jason Suydam the junior ROTC program is primarily a citizenship program for students. Kids can participate for all four years of high school. And though some students go on to military service, the program is not specifically a military prep program.

Suydam said the 225 students work in a traditional classroom setting learning about various areas of interest, including aerospace science, leadership education and wellness.

“It gives us a lot of opportunities for cadet leadership and cadet management,” cadet captain John Zakeski said.

According to cadet major, Drew Polczynski of Charles Town, students develop and administer various community service projects throughout the school year including blood drives and highway cleanups.

Suydam said the students have collected more than $50,000 over the past 12 years for the Shoe and Coat program, collecting nearly $11,000 last year alone. This year they hope to top that number.

“We’ve turned in about $2,000 so far.” Gabby Lovell said.

Donations collected from the drive will be given to Mrs. Lloyd, the county social worker in charge of administering the fund, who will then purchase shoes and coats for participating children.

Lovell said 30 to 40 students plan to get together this weekend as a group and collect funds in the Shepherdstown neighborhoods of Gap View and Breckinridge.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.

“It’s really exciting and people get really happy to see us out in our uniforms. And most people are very polite and giving.”

For more information about the fundraiser or to donate, contact Morris or Suydam at 304-725-8491 ext. 6051.