A total of 8,453 food and hygiene items were collected by area schools for service members and veterans this past fall.
The collection was part of the D.A.R.E. for Vets program. Two classes that collected the most items earned a field trip to the St. Clair VFW Post, which took place Monday, Dec. 11.
The two winning fifth-grade classes were from Strain-Japan Elementary School and St. John-Gildehaus Grade School. During the field trip, students had the opportunity to visit with World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Donations are collected in the fall and spring. Schools in rural areas in Franklin County participate. Items collected are used to put in Christmas baskets for veterans, care packages for members overseas, and items are delivered to the VA homes and hospitals, as well as to the organization H.E.R.O.E.S.
In April, a fifth-grade class from Spring Bluff Elementary collected more items per student than any other D.A.R.E. class in the county, which earned them a special field trip and visit with local veterans.
Countywide, the spring collection totaled 9,000 items for D.A.R.E. for Vets and 22 students helped deliver the personal and toiletry items to the Ralph Russo VFW Post 2482 in St. Clair.
The items are distributed to homeless and needy veterans in the county and residents of two veterans homes in St. James and Mexico.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department has administered the D.A.R.E. program to students at 18 schools in unincorporated Franklin County, Gerald and New Haven for 20 years.