You may not have heard about the Buckets for Troops program before, but it is high time that you do.
What is Buckets for Troops you ask? It’s a project started by Bunsold Middle School teachers Gregg Severt and Amy Wagner who asked their students take time out of their own day to pack all sorts of goodies into resealable buckets, tape them up accordingly, haul them down to the local Marysville Post Office and have the buckets mailed to U.S. troops who are stationed on all four corners of the Earth, many times thousands miles away in countries most of us would have trouble picking out on a map.
Both Mr. Severt and Ms. Wagner teach the Career Connections classes at Bunsold to give the students an idea of what sorts of professions that are available to them once they finish high school – covering everything from Art to Zoology – and one of the careers that is discussed (among the dozens of others) is a career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
But as both Ms. Wagner and Mr. Severt knew that a number of the students had brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles – or even parents – on active duty in the Armed Forces, they took the process just one step farther and over the past several years have used resealable buckets for what we Veterans used to call Care Packages. The students fill the buckets full of all sorts of cool and useful things such as candy, personal hygiene products (toothbrushes, hand soap, sanitizer), books, bubble gum, pens, pencils and note paper, word puzzle magazines, card games and just about any other of the creature comforts of home that can fit in a bucket and generally cannot be found in remote areas of the world where American troops are stationed.
Ms. Wagner laughingly said that she nicked the idea of Buckets for Troops from another school that was doing the same thing in western Ohio, but no one is complaining or suing over intellectual rights.
When the program started at Bunsold four years ago, the Career Connections class was sending up to 50 Buckets to Troops each school year, but because of the logistics, costs, time and effort that is needed to prepare the Buckets from soup to nuts – getting custom stamps for APO addresses in Djibouti is a time-consuming event – represents a hefty portion of time investment, the number has been reduced to 30 Buckets per year. The money for the goodies is raised by the school store, which is also run by the students.
As this school year is winding to a close, Bunsold Middle School is in the process of sending out the last five Buckets of the school year this month, but plan to start up the program again at the start of the 2022-23 school year as it has been such a hit with both the students and the troops. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines frequently contact the Bunsold students either via email or even with the occasional video that was shot by a smartphone, thanking the students, not just for the bucket full of presents, but for acknowledging that the kiddos at home have their back while they are out protecting the country from all kinds to evil that seemingly pops up in the most unlikely of places at the worst possible times.
The students are encouraged to spend their money wisely and are charged to bargain shop and compare prices at various stores and businesses around the city, in order to get more bang for their buck. While the school store contributes some of the folding money needed to buy the latest issue of The X-Men, a ten pack of Kit Kat bars, hand sanitizer and notebooks, Mr. Gregg said that, when the program first started, a grant was obtained to supply the funds, but now the school store – which, too, is run by the students – kicks in most of the money and private donations are also welcomed.
The good people at Kroger supplied the buckets for a couple of years, usually from the Bakery Department where the buckets were used for frostings, mixes, sugar, flour and the like, but when the Nutritional Staff at Bunsold (and other MEVSD schools) heard that the Career Connections classes were in need, they came to the rescue and have been supplying as many buckets as possible to the Buckets for Troops, with the added bonus of not having to clean out chocolate or vanilla frosting before using them.
“What’s really cool is we include, right on the top when they open the bucket, a note from us and the kids that has a little QR code on it,” Ms. Wagner said, “and (the troops) can scan the code which takes them to a video of the kids where we thank them for their service.”
This year, Mr. Severt and Ms. Wagner started asking to the kids to include one personal item just for their Bucket so if one of the troops got a sewing kit (a very handy item to those in the field), a small stuffed animal or a cribbage board, when the troops who receive the Buckets watch the video, they can put a face to the name of the young lady who threw in a bobble-head of Tom Brady, or the young man who included a deck of Uno cards in his Bucket. This is especially touching to the students who are sending their Buckets to their brothers and sisters (or aunts and uncles and Moms and Dads), as they can include items that have a sentimental value that would be lost to anyone outside the immediate family.
“I had a student who didn’t want to buy a special items for his Bucket, he just wanted to draw a picture for his brother,” Ms. Wagner said.
When Mr. Severt and Ms. Wagner were asked what they get out of it, Mr. Severt had a ready answer.
“We’re helping connect (the students) to the community, showing them that we have people who are doing great thing overseas that are making this a country where we can live and be free.”
The Bucket for Troops takes a hiatus over the summer, but Mr. Severt and Ms. Wagner plan to have it up and running when school starts again in August.
“We can’t stop now,” Ms. Wagner said with a smile. “There are too many people looking forward to it.”