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kids with home-made christmas cards Olivia Smith and Pauli Garcia make cards to send with the Cookies for Soldiers program at St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church in the Chicago, Illinois. (Photo courtesy Matthew Zdun)

Sweetening Up the Holidays

A little sugar for the soldiers serving our country

By Matthew Zdun | December 2 , 2010

The holidays have become a little "sweeter" for many soldiers thanks to some devoted volunteers.

It all started nine years ago when St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church in the Chicago area adopted a unit of about 190 soldiers in Iraq. People around the church began sending essential everyday items that the soldiers could use. They sent everything from toothpaste to clothes—until two years ago.

"The captain of the unit told us that the one thing that soldiers really enjoyed was home-baked goods," said Jane Kilanowski, the coordinator of the program.

So that is exactly what St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church began to send. When the church launched its Cookies for Soldiers program last year, it asked people from around the community to bake homemade cookies. If they couldn't bake, the church asked people to donate money to help defer the cost of shipping the cookies.

"We involved teen groups, parish people, and even children from the local school," said Kilanowski. "If for some reason kids couldn't get out of the house, this was something that they could do at home and with their family instead of, for example, a game night."

Everyone played an important role in this program, especially the kids.

St. Julie's teen group hosted a pancake breakfast, raising money for the Cookies for Soldiers program. Many teens helped with the baking and packaging of the cookies, as well. Cookies ranged from chocolate chip to peanut butter to decorated cutout cookies and even Santa Claus-shaped Rice Krispie treats.

More than 110 cookie-filled shoeboxes, along with notes of encouragement and thanks, filled 55 shipping boxes and were sent to the adopted soldiers this holiday season.

"It was nice to show my appreciation for the soldiers and for what they are doing for all of us," said Dustin Uher, a teenager helping in the program.

Some kids also made cards for the soldiers.

"Somewhere, someone is going to feel really good about receiving this card," said Olivia Smith, one of the creative card-making kids. "I am truly grateful to the soldiers, and I just wanted to show my gratitude through my artistic ability."

Kilanowksi's  favorite part of the Cookies for Soldiers program is the cooking.

"It is nice to have the opportunity to bake for people who do not have as much as I do," she said. "And it is also very nice to see people coming together to help someone in need."

The soldiers have really appreciated what the community has done for them, she added.

"We receive letters back from the soldiers thanking us for how great this program is," she said.  The letters are posted on a bulletin board at the church.

The Cookies for Soldiers program involves both young and old, working on a shared goal: sweetening a soldier's holiday by satisfying their sweet tooth.

KIDS MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Scholastic's newest team of Kid Reporters take a look at what young people around the country are doing to help out the less fortunate this holiday season in the Kids Make a Difference Special Report.

NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS

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