Westerville residents are hoping to make the holidays a little brighter for members of the military serving on active duty.

Westerville residents are hoping to make the holidays a little brighter for members of the military serving on active duty.

Volunteers from the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Westerville schools, American Legion Young-Budd Post 171, VFW Post 7883 and others gathered at Westerville's American Legion post last week to pack 175 boxes to send to troops for the holidays.

The items that filled the boxes - jerky, toiletries, books, DVDs and small stuffed animals, among other things - came from Heritage and Genoa middle schools as part of their Veterans Day activities.

"We do it because I'm so proud of our nation. I'm so proud of the men and women who serve," said Genoa teacher Nancy Shew, who started the supply drive last year. "If I can do one thing to show my support, it's infectious."

Students also wrote 1,185 thank-you notes to send to troops, and raised around $600 to help with shipping the packages.

Last year, Shew led the first care package initiative at Genoa Middle School only, and with the help of the American Legion, the Women's Auxiliary and the VFW, sent 75 care packages to troops.

The Comic Book Connection Initiative, which collects comic books to give to hospitals, members of the military and others in need, donated more than 400 comic books to the care-package project.

Shew said she's excited by how well this year's drive for money and care-package items went.

"I'm excited because it's growing," she said. "I feel privileged to be part of this."

Shew said she believes the care-package project caught on even more at Genoa Middle School this year because teachers shared with students the thank-you notes they received for the care packages sent last December.

"We were able to show them how appreciated they were," she said.

VFW Post 7883 Commander Ben Quinn said it means a lot to see so many people from the community rally to do a nice thing for military members.

"This is one of my favorite times of the year," Quinn said. "It's just neat to see the schools get involved. It's nice to see a true community event take place for people they don't even know."

Quinn said he knows from his own service how appreciated care packages are, even though they are filled with things that seem so simple.

"From my personal experience, especially when you're gone for a holiday, you're getting boxes from people you don't even know," Quinn said. "It's amazing the little things you miss."

Quinn said this year, Westerville's VFW post was given money by the Ohio VFW Military Assistance Program Fund to help pay for the cost of shipping the packages.

The boxes will be sent to two units adopted by Westerville's VFW post: the Naval Operations Support Center based at Rickenbacker Airport and the 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, which also is based in Columbus, Quinn said.

Boxes also will go to any active-duty military members the VFW or the American Legion has contact information for, he said.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 4, there will be a Troop Benefit Holiday Bazaar at the American Legion post, 393 E. College Ave., to raise money to help with the shipping costs of the care packages.