This is the fifth year that the East Islip School District has been supporting America’s overseas troops, with an unprecedented outpouring of goodwill and appreciation for those in the military overseas, specifically Marines serving in Afghanistan, often in primitive, remote locations without modern-day comforts. Spearheaded by Rena Costello, a home and career skills teacher at East Islip Middle School, East Islip’s program to collect and ship packages of food, candy, cooking supplies, drinks, socks, toiletries, cards, magazines, DVDs, video games and other items to these “adopted” Marines has become a district-wide group effort, involving entire classrooms in the middle school – including those of Brian Deedy, Melissa Henderson, Dori Hirsch, Janice Laube, Wendy Rauh and Barbara Tubello – as well as individual teachers from other schools in the district, administrators and staff members. Connetquot Elementary music teacher Eileen Egbert and East Islip's Director of Data and Technological Services Dan Friedman have been shipping boxes to the Marines on a weekly basis all year long.
“I love to do this and it is truly a labor of love,” Costello said. “I do my best to get our guys really great and needed stuff, as well as fun things like poker chips.”
Costello’s modesty belies just how precious the donation program is for the Marines on the other end. Capt. Matthew Peterson, a Marine veteran who spoke at East Islip during the high school’s 9/11 ceremony last fall, said “The Marines loved receiving mail because the packages and letters we received connected us with our homes, our families, and our country. Your contribution of packages provided us with a welcome reminder of our great nation and its citizens. Your gifts brightened our days and lifted our spirits. Speaking on behalf of the Marines in my company, I can tell you we will never forget your generosity, your caring, and your patriotism.”
“Although it has been a bit over a year since my husband returned from Afghanistan, he still speaks highly of Rena Costello and the packages that she sent,” added Jamie Ricaud. “He had many Marines over there who, had it not been for Rena, would not have received any packages, which are lifelines to the lives they left back in the United States. As a Marine wife, it was heartwarming to know that people still cared and went above and beyond to care for those that they do not even personally know. Rena was kind enough to check on me while my husband was overseas, when we had not even met before. She is an amazing woman teaching lifelong lessons to tomorrow’s leaders.”
Over 400 packages alone were sent during the 2010-2011 school year, and this year has been similarly generous. “The packages we received from the school were a tremendous boost to our spirits in Afghanistan,” said Staff Sgt. Jason A. Hansen. “There is nothing better when you are sitting in the middle of the Afghan desert than receiving a box full of wonderful snacks to break the monotony of eating the same thing for weeks on end. We are truly grateful for all the outstanding support!”
to volunteer to ship boxes to the Marines.