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Jenks Gazette

Student Supports Deployed Troops, Blue Star Mothers

TULSA BLUE STAR MOTHERS: Jenks High School sophomore Katy Grider stands with members of the Tulsa Blue Star Mothers of America. Pictured with her are, from left, Tulsa Blue Star Mothers Donna Reatz, treasurer Mary Barnett, Sandy Alston, Chapter President Saundra Bixler and financial secretary Kathy Burns.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Jenks high school student Katy Grider is working to make a difference for deployed American troops.

In the spring of last year, at the encouragement of her mother, Cristi, Katy Grider began searching for a community-focused activity in which she could volunteer her time.

Because of the military’s constant need for supplies for deployed soldiers, Grider decided to focus on gathering donations to give to the Tulsa Blue Star Mothers of America.

She began her collection efforts by going door-to-door, requesting items from her neighbors.

Grider, who at the time was an eighth grader at Jenks Middle School, then asked her principal if she could engage in fundraising efforts at the school. After gaining permission, she created posters to hang on campus, made announcements on the school’s video broadcast and handed out fliers to fellow students.

Her next step involved her father and the company where he works, Summit ESP. Grider presented her project to the company’s community outreach committee, which led to the company involving its branches throughout the U.S. to encourage employee giving.

Last year, Grider collected enough donations to fill 100 shipping boxes, called Freedom Boxes. Each box that the Tulsa Blue Star Mothers sends contains about $50 of supplies, including ready-to-eat foods, sanitary items, socks, toothbrushes, and batteries.

For the 2016-2017 school year, Grider continued her efforts, this time at the Freshman Academy. She made classroom presentations, and she encouraged students to write letters to soldiers.

Recently, Grider completed a fundraising drive that involved donation bins set up at area businesses. She also regularly spends time packing shipping boxes at the Tulsa Blue Star Mothers’ offices in downtown Tulsa at 907 S. Detroit Ave. in the Sunoco Building.

Many of the local chapter’s boxes are currently being sent to Ukraine, where additional U.S. soldiers are being deployed, says Chapter President Saundra Biller.

For Grider, who was adopted along with her brother, Joey, from Ukraine, the chapter’s efforts to help soldiers in her native country makes it that much more special.

“It felt really good for all of us to know that we were packing boxes to benefit American troops who are protecting the country in which Katy and Joey were born,” says Cristi Grider.

The Tulsa Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers covers all of Tulsa County and was the first chapter established in Oklahoma in 2003.

The organization’s purpose is twofold: to provide shipping boxes filled with needed supplies to deployed soldiers and to offer support for mothers of military service members.

The chapter is also involved in local efforts to support veterans and service members, says Biller.

The chapter has donated to the Coffee Bunker, 6365 E. 41st St. in Tulsa, and recently provided support to a local serviceman who was in need of new tires for his vehicle.
“We also build up moms,” says Bixler. “We are a soft shoulder for each other.

“Because we are all going, or have gone, through the same thing, we can share our experiences with each other and help mothers cope.”

In 2016, the Tulsa Chapter sent 2,400 boxes overseas.

To ship one box costs $15 on average, plus the cost for the supplies in the box, driving home the importance of community support, she continues. And the benefits to the soldiers make it all worth it.

“These boxes bring soldiers the comfort of home,” Bixler says. “We get letters from them all the time, thanking us.”

Bixler recounts one story from a soldier stationed in Iraq who told her that he gives many of his boxes to the local Iraqi soldiers.

“The local soldiers are just aghast that a country would go to all of that trouble for its soldiers,” says Biller.

“How we treat our military is so different from other countries.”

Updated 07-21-2017

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