Two Watseka Community High School students are helping make the holidays a little easier for some military personnel.

Kadyn Stevens and Teagan Cawthon recently collected items for 18 care packages to be sent to local military personnel.

They were helped by their mentor Tammy Barragree.

The students were assigned to do a Make a Difference project for a civics class with teacher Amy Bandur.

“When we first started the project we weren’t really sure what to do,” said Cawthon. Her brother is serving in the National Guard and Stevens’ grandfather is a veteran.

“So we thought it would be a good idea to give back to those who serve our country,” Cawthon said.

She said they included many different classes in the district.

“We included fifth graders and third graders,” she said. “We talked to them about why it is important to give back and important that they know what these people do for us.’

Stevens said they talked with Barragree and Jen Ingram from Veterans Assistance about the project.

They started by making flyers and talking to students in their advisory classes at the high school. The two talked to the fifth graders at Glenn Raymond School. Stevens talked to the third graders and Cawthon talked to the National Honor Society members. “The third graders and NHS members and families wrote letters to say thank you,” Stevens said.

WCHS and GRS students conducted a food drive for the project, too.

Barragree said each of the advisory classes at the high school participated in the food drive and made it into a competition. Monical’s Pizza is donating a pizza part to the winners, she said.

“And then, the third grade wrote the letters and the fifth grade collected donations, and they did a ton of collections as well,” Barragree said. “They did so well and came up with so much stuff that the kids thought they should get a pizza party as well, so Monical’s is donating to both of those.”

There were several items, like canned goods, that could not be shipped so those items were donated to the Watseka Food Pantry at the First United Methodist of Watseka.

The items ended up making 18 care packages, one for each service member selected.

“They are all either past classmates or connected to someone local,” Barragree said of where the care packages are going.

There are personal care items, candies, snack foods and other items that the military personnel can use.

The boxes were shipped from Sheldon Post Office last week. There are two that have been hand delivered already to people who are home right now before they ship out, and then one other one that will be hand delivered soon.

People also donated to help with shipping costs, which “was also super nice,” Barragree said.

The girls said they started working on the project soon after school started.

They are happy and grateful for the response the project got.

“My mom, Teagan and I were talking about that as we boxed up the items,” Stevens said. “This just makes my heart happy that I can do this for people.”

“It makes me feel warm inside,” Cawthon said.

The girls noted that the smallest donation and act of kindness can make a difference. “Especially to those who are serving our country every day for us,” Barragree said.

Stevens is the daughter of Alissa and Niel Stevens.

She is involved in show choir, basketball, softball, president of Student Council, Key Club and Spanish Club, and vice president of National Honor Society. She works at Monical’s Pizza. A senior this year, she will be going to Illinois State University to study special ed.

Cawthon is a junior and the daughter of Lance Cawthon. She plays volleyball, basketball and softball. She is also involved in Key Club and F Troop.

“I think it’s an honor to get to be a mentor and help the kids,” Barragree said. “They did all the planning and the work we were just there to help facilitate. I think it is good to bring awareness to the projects they are doing.”