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Kids raise funds to buy phone cards for soldiers
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This year, the inspiration for the mission project of Chestnut Mountain Church’s vacation Bible school was close to home.

Kids at the Flowery Branch church’s vacation Bible school created kits for soldiers, including the three who are members of the church.

Clyde Self, pastor of children’s ministries at Chestnut Mountain Church, said the vacation Bible school staff considered many ideas for fundraisers until they heard about phone cards for soldiers, which struck a personal chord.

During the three-day vacation Bible school in June, participants ranging from pre-K to fifth grade created "thank-you kits" for soldiers overseas.

In addition to writing the soldiers "thank you" messages, the kids also added basic first aid supplies such as Band-Aids and Neosporin. The final touch for the thank-you kits was the phone cards.

Self said within two days, about 300 vacation Bible school participants had raised $2,100 to buy the phone cards, bringing in bags of their own change and money from their piggy banks.

"We don’t see the support that you read about from World War II," he said. "I read stories of this country coming together in unity to support the troops, and you don’t see a lot of that now.

"So we said, ‘Let’s do something that will help kids be more aware of the sacrifices these soldiers are making.’"

More than 300 kits were shipped to Operation Sandbox in Georgia, a program that will distribute them to soldiers stationed overseas.

Self said the vacation Bible school would consider the program for next year.

Capt. Scott Smathers of the U.S. Army, one of the sources of inspiration for the project, attends Chestnut Mountain Church with his family.

For the second time since Sept. 11, 2001, Smathers said he is on tour, and will be teaching lieutenants basic survival and combat skills at Fort Benning in Columbus before the soldiers go overseas.

Smathers said the phone cards "will be a tremendous morale booster." Though many areas overseas have communication access, Smathers said there are lots of areas where the phone cards are needed.

"International calls cost a lot of money. The phone cards will come in handy, because the calls won’t cost (soldiers) anything, and they’ll be able to touch base with their families. It will really make their day," Smathers said.

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