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Sunday, May 29, 2016
Blankets bring hope to U.S. soldiers
Winthrop Avenue fourth-graders lend a hand to military personnel
Courtesy Kelly Mooney
Jillian Leibowitz, left, whose mother, Jody, is a fourth-grade teacher at Winthrop Avenue Elementary School in Bellmore, helped Evan Collins, Andrew DiFusco, Ryan Kender, Emma Tiongson, Jessica Nachamie and Anna Bolles, from left, and other students make blankets for soldiers.

Students in the Bellmore Union Free School District are doing their part to comfort American soldiers and veterans, school officials said.

Fourth-graders at Winthrop Avenue Elementary School recently created fleece blankets to be sent to wounded military personnel and veterans through Soldiers’ Angels, a nonprofit that supports thousands of American servicemen and women around the country and the world.

The students tied together fleece patches to form 10 blankets in their art classroom on Feb. 21 to support the charity’s “Blankets of Hope” program. Jillian Leibowitz, a junior at Jericho High School, whose mother, Jody, teaches fourth-graders at Winthrop Avenue, organized the project and joined in the effort.

Jillian Leibowitz provided the fleece patches so the students could make no-sew blankets, and will send them to Soldiers’ Angels, along with signed cards from the entire fourth grade.

“We talk so much about our district core values in class –– teamwork, respect, integrity, trust and dedication –– and this is a great way to put them into action while giving back,” Jody Leibowitz said.

The “Blankets of Hope” project is one way that Soldiers’ Angels benefits American soldiers and veterans, according to the organization.

Patti Patton-Bader, a “self-described ordinary mother of two American soldiers,” founded the charity. The effort began when her oldest son, Staff Sgt. Brandon Varn, was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

In the summer of his 2003, Brandon expressed concern that soldiers in his unit did not receive any mail or support from home, according to the Soldiers’ Angels website. Patton-Bader then contacted a handful of friends and extended family and asked that they send mail, packages and kind messages to a soldier or two. The efforts of the first “angels” led to the formation of the organization, which became a nonprofit in 2004.

Participants in the “Blankets of Hope” project create blankets to be used on hospital beds, wheelchairs and transport litters on medical evacuation flights. According to Soldiers’ Angels, they are included in the organization’s first response backpacks and “vet packs” sent to combat support hospitals in the war zones, major medical facilities in Germany and elsewhere, in addition to select military hospitals and veterans centers in the United States.

In Bellmore, Winthrop Avenue’s fourth-graders said they were happy to contribute to “Blankets of Hope.”

“This project is awesome,” said Sydney Mazza. “I really feel like I’m helping people.”


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