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Florida Church Launches Operation Sweet Tooth

By 1st Lt. Steve Alvarez, USAR
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2003 – When Mary Massey adopted Robert Campbell earlier this year, she had no idea what to expect. Like others who adopt, she thought that adoption might be a positive and kind gesture that would help another person. Little did Massey know that shortly after adopting Campbell, he would ask for enough cookies to feed 600 of his friends.

Campbell, a chief warrant officer, and his 600 buddies, all with the 16th Signal Battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, are supporting the 3rd Armored Cavalry in northwest Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The College Park United Methodist Church in Orlando, Fla., where Massey is director of the child development center and primary school, adopted the battalion earlier this year.

"He is excited about the adoption idea," Massey said. "Our focus right now is collecting money to send cookies to the soldiers for Christmas. It is our goal to send 600 dozen cookies, one dozen per soldier," Massey said.

Several weeks ago Massey sent an e-mail to Campbell and asked him what they wanted. The answer was short and sweet: cookies. "The PX carries most common stuff, such as baby wipes, bug spray, etc. The cookies remind us of our moms and the normal home life we have been longing to see again," Campbell said. "Cookies are the most requested item."

Massey and others decided to adopt a unit, a first for the church, at the suggestion of a parishioner. She also provides support groups at her church and helps coordinate special prayer services for those supporting the soldiers back home. Massey also helped record a patriotic song earlier this year that is currently on the play list of Army's Soldiers Radio.

"We began searching for some way to help our military personnel who have been deployed," Massey said. "It is a good life lesson for our students - for them to understand they can truly make a difference."

Accompanying the cookies this holiday season will be cards and drawings from College Park's students. Massey said that after the holidays, the church will send the troops baby wipes, bug spray, foot cream, and other things suggested by Campbell.

"I am honored that Mary is doing all of this," Campbell said. "She is putting forth a lot of time, energy and effort to see that our lives are a little more stable. Getting the kids involved is what I find to be the most satisfying. The troops love all the letters, goodies, and the attention that these children are giving to us."

Massey, a strong supporter of the U.S. military, also receives something in return for her efforts: Satisfaction. "We have a deep appreciation for what they are doing and want, even if in some small way to thank them," she said.

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