Goody-giving generosity

Brothers Jonathon, 10, and Nicholas Ritters, 8, work together to dump some 880 pounds of candy donated by Las Animas Elementary School students during the Treats for Troops fundraiser at the Operation Interdependence headquarters Tuesday.

The snowball effect is taking its course as the second annual “Treats for Troops” drive successfully doubled its cache of goodies for a good cause.

The concept – which involves donating superfluous Halloween candy to servicemen and women – was adopted in Gilroy after parent volunteer Diana Torres with Las Animas Elementary School read about the idea in a magazine.

She got the ball rolling in 2011-12, when Las Animas Elementary students (willingly and cheerfully, nonetheless) contributed 554.5 pounds of their trick-or-treat sweets to troops overseas through Operation Interdependence.

The organization, which has a local chapter in Gilroy, is a national volunteer-based program with a civilian-to-military delivery system that sends quart-sized bags filled with treats, toiletries and handwritten letters to troops stationed in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

This year, the goal was to gather 1,000 pounds of candy.

With the efforts of Las Animas (which collected 888 pounds of candy) bolstered by Gilroy (234 pounds) and Christopher High Schools (104 pounds), along with the Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy (45 pounds), the final tally of donated candy reached 1,271.

“The principal (at Las Animas) was joking around that we should make it a competition,” said Torres. “Anyway, no matter how you look at it, it’s a win-win.”

Approximately 780 Las Animas students also wrote 1,000 letters that went into care packages assembled at local O.I. headquarters. Each student was required to write at least one letter as part of a writing assignment, but many went above and beyond and wrote more, Torres said.

As the Treats for Troops project coordinator, Torres said she’s starting to get calls from other schools such as Pacific West Christian Academy in Gilroy who want to emulate the effort.

“The community outpouring on this project has been amazing,” she gushed, mentioning one family that brought in 80 pounds of Snickers. “The students at our school(s) are total givers.”

• A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit civilian-to-military delivery system that sends quart-sized bags filled with treats, toiletries and letters to troops stationed overseas. Christopher High School hosts an O.I. drive annually.
• The goal is to send 1,000 letters and baggies of supplies overseas each month.
• To make a donation, visit the O.I. chapter headquarters in Gilroy at 8401 Church St. on the corner of Welburn Avenue. If you visit during off-hours, letters can be dropped off through a slot. If you have a large donation that you would like to drop off in person, call O.I. Site Manger Suzie Kugler at (408) 847-5906.
• Suggested items to donate: (Food) Individually packaged tea, cocoa, powdered drink mixes, single serving sized cookies, trail mix, Corn Nuts, small packs of almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, gum (Eclipse is a favorite), hard candy (sealed, no twists), microwave popcorn, granola bars, Rice Krispie Treats, beef jerky. (Supplies) travel-size shampoo, conditioner, gel, lotions, disposable razors, small toothpaste, dental floss, toothbrushes (sealed), sunscreen, bug repellent (small tube, non-aerosol), socks, Odor Eaters for boots, eye drops, Chapstick (with seals), hand sanitizer (small container), moist towelettes, baby wipes, prepaid international phone cards, decks of playing cards and small games.