Cheer, gift-wrapped

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Through the efforts of a group of students at Franklinton Junior High School, members of a U.S. Air Force unit will receive some holiday cheer and a box of needed items this Christmas.

Sponsor Cherie Fitzmorris said the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which meets each Wednesday morning for a devotion and to offer prayer requests, decided to reach out to the airmen.

The group’s other sponsor is school counselor Sid Zeringue, more commonly known as Coach Z. His son, Andrew, is a senior airman serving at Bagram Airfield, an Air Force Base in Afghanistan where he and the other members of his avionics shop work on computers on A-10 planes.

Sid Zeringue discussed the students’ idea for the project with his son, who provided a list of 11 other people in his unit and some items the airmen could use.

“We printed out the list and gave it to the kids, and the kids were extremely generous in bringing the items that were on the list,” he said.

The item most requested was Tide Pods, since the airmen’s clothes are washed by someone else and are returned with an extremely unpleasant smell unless a laundry detergent like that is used, Fitzmorris said.

“We’ve had a great response from our students,” she said. “They brought in the Tide Pods. They’ve also brought in snacks like Oreos, Skittles, beef jerky and mints.”

Also requested were hygiene products such as shampoo, body wash, toothpaste and cotton balls and books for leisure, including crossword and Sudoku puzzles, Fitzmorris said.

Each box included Christmas cards as well, with messages from the students thanking the airmen for their service to their country, Fitzmorris said.

The roughly 40 members of the group had a couple of weeks to bring in the items, and they worked Wednesday morning on packaging the boxes, one for each airman.

“They’ve brought so much that we had to get the largest flat rate boxes,” Fitzmorris said.

Students evenly distributed the items between the boxes and filled out the address labels and customs clearance forms, Zeringue said.

“While they were doing that, they were just so excited,” he said. “They had an extremely good response to bringing it in and then they were really excited to get it all together and packaged.”

Fitzmorris delivered the boxes to the post office on Wednesday, and they are expected to arrive by Christmas, since travel time is about seven to 10 days.

In addition to Andrew Zeringue, recipients of the boxes will be Arturo Martinez, Danny Crandall, Jeremy Miller, Keith Whipple, Patrick Reibel, Jacob Dupuis, Dane Dye, Michael Cabigting, Marcus Nugent, Eric Gorman and Kyle Finch.

Sid Zeringue said the project is a way for the students to reach out to the service members. The airmen are away from their families this Christmas, and the boxes they will soon receive will let them know “that people care about them, that people are thinking about them,” he said. Sending the packages overseas also serves as a “global experience” for the students, he said.

The project looks to become a Christmastime tradition for FCA.

“We’re going to start doing this every year,” Fitzmorris said. “This is the first time we’ve done it, and we just think it’s really cool. The response has been awesome.”

Zerigue described it as a “very worthwhile” project and said he was amazed by the way the students responded to it.

“They took the project seriously, and they gave of themselves for the gift items,” he said. “To see them so exited about packing the packages and being part of the whole process — to experience it, I think, was really neat.”