WEST ORANGE, NJ — Students and community members across West Orange took a few moments to create heartfelt holiday cards for active-duty service people deployed or stationed away during the holiday season around the world, resulting in nearly 1,000 reminders of love and support.

In addition to the cards from West Orange, neighboring towns sent greetings and supplies as well. For Our Troops, an organization headed by Kathy Pigott and Suzanne Pennell, sends care boxes to active-duty service persons in all branches of the military. Snacks, baby wipes, feminine products and toiletries top the list of items to be sent along with the cards.

This year, the group shipped out 226 boxes, all of which contained holiday cards.

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Students spent time in art classes and classrooms to create their handmade works of art. West Orange High School (WOHS) Library Media Specialists Beverly Tindall and Julie Metz even created a workstation with art supplies for students to create cards during lunch.

"Shipping costs were offset by thousands of dollars of donations, and we partnered this year with the nonprofit Backpacks For Life, founded by a Marine veteran and former recipient of a box from the collection," said Pennell. "West Orange residents and relatives of West Orange residents are some of the recipients, including recent WOHS graduates Ensign Dylan Pennell, Second Lieutenant Ginamarie Arrabito and Corporal Michael Festa.”

According to Pennell, West Orange students from pre-school through 12th grade contributed “beautifully designed cards and letters to the troops.”  She noted that #forourtroops2019 collection and Backpacks For Life are “incredibly grateful to everyone who donated volunteer time, requested items and monetary contributions to help make this the most successful collection ever.”