A tradition started three years ago in Kay Spivey's sixth grade class at the Viola schools, when a Army soldier and parent of a student came to speak to the class. Asked what could be sent to help the troops, Staff Sgt. March told the class they have enough toothpaste and soap and to send something good to eat.
This year, the class sent 47 pounds of candy bars and messages of thanks to those serving the country overseas.
Each treat is wrapped with a personally written letter from a student. The letters help children learn how to write correspondence as well as reach out to a soldier who is far from home. "A lot of soldiers write us back," Spivey said.
"Soldiers get a lot around Christmas but seem to be forgotten the rest of the year. So after talking to Sgt. March, we decided to try and get the package to them around the second week of January," Spivey said.
In addition to the soldier gift drive the sixth grade class holds a food drive that is currently in its third year. Non-perishable food items are collected and donated to the Salem food bank.
Students in the sixth grade class have also been saving for two years to go on a educational trip to Washington D.C., to learn first hand about U.S. history. In addition to the students currently in the sixth grade, students that were selected to go from the previous two sixth grade classes also get to attend the trip.
"We have new frame works for the class. Sixth grade students are required to take U.S. history, so what better way to teach them then to take them to the U.S. Capitol," Spivey said.
The class will be traveling by air and will stay for five days. Through fundraising and donations, around $4,000 has been raised so far.
"We hope to give students $100 each to spend," Spivey said.
Students will have to pay $1,300 each to attend the trip, although the class is accepting donations to try and sponsor a few students that cannot meet that goal.
Several donors include North Arkansas Electric Cooperative, Wal-Mart and Sealco. To contribute to the Washington Fund, send donations to: Washington Fund, P.O. Box 360, Viola, AR 72583, or contact the Viola school for more information.