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Veterans helping kids

The small town of Bloomsburg, Pa., is blessed with plenty of food banks that have kept local residents fed during the COVID–19 outbreak. However, the area’s children have grown restless during the quarantine.

Michael Schmid, the treasurer and a volunteer at the Bloomsburg Salvation Army Service Center, said he had heard complaints from parents that their children were “driving us nuts” being at home all the time.

“The caseworker and I looked at each other and I said, ‘Maybe we should do something about that,’” Schmid recalled.

Schmid, who is retired after a 39–year military career, enlisted the help of the Bloomsburg American Legion; Millville, Pa., American Legion; Benton, Pa., Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW); and the Bloomsburg Elks Club. The groups joined forces to donate $2,000 for the service center to provide “boredom survival kits” for children ages 5–12.

“The idea was raised on a Friday and by Monday they had all given us a $500 check,” Schmid said. “The veterans in our community are there to support us in every event and endeavor we do, and we support them. We go hand–in–hand with them.”

Then it was off to find crafts and other items “to keep kids busy,” Schmid said.

“We went shopping and we got everything from spinners to birdhouse kits to race car kits,” Schmid said. “We got little planters and dirt and seeds. We put together some fantastic kits.”

Schmid said 102 kits, which also featured such unique gifts as painting projects and card games, were distributed at two separate events. The service center, which is not a corps, rents space from the First Presbyterian Church of Bloomsburg and the distribution events were held in the parking lot.

“We set it up McDonald’s drive–thru style,” Schmid said. “We had a tent set up and we were all wearing gloves and masks. We ran the kits out to their cars and put them in their trunks.”

Joining Schmid was caseworker Alicia Lindenmuth, volunteer Brenda Lisiewski, and Schmid’s son, Andrew.

The bags for the events were donated by the local Giant Food stores. The service center also gave out 12 cases of family–size potato chips donated by the Wise Potato Chip Co.

The service center in Bloomsburg was active in the community long before COVID–19, holding a back–to–school event each fall where 180 students can shop at Walmart for $100 worth of clothes. There’s also a “stuff–the–bus” event that provides more than 200 children with school supplies. Last year, the annual “Angel Tree” Christmas program gifted 300 children with presents.

Schmid said he and the others at the service center are motivated by “love of community” to help the children.

“Bloomsburg is a neighborhood community,” he said. “It has a small-town feeling. We incorporate all the little towns around us, and we look out for each other. Kids are obviously special in our hearts. We take care of them. We love them.”

by Robert Mitchell

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