After three years of focusing their efforts on the men and women stationed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Armed forces, as well as the Afghan children and people, Operation Candy Cane will benefit the children and veterans who call the Mohawk Valley home.
The Herkimer County Hunger Coalition will partner with three Herkimer County nursing homes and county Veterans Services Agency Director Charlie Miller to recognize the homes’ veterans in residence by providing them with a Christmas gift and offering each an opportunity to have their name etched on the Wall of Honor at Herkimer County Community College’s Veterans Memorial Park.
In addition, the coalition will partner with area elementary schools to have students create Christmas cards to be distributed to veterans at the participating nursing homes and the Veterans Administration hospital in Syracuse. HCCC students will also take part in Operation Candy Cane IV by conducting a hat and mittens drive to benefit the Herkimer BOCES migrant worker program.
“The beneficiaries of this year’s project will not only include the veterans at our nursing homes and the children of the migrant worker program, but also the participating students who will be reminded of the importance of remembering our veterans,” said Ray Lenarcic, coalition founder.
Founded by Ron Schoonmaker and Laura Hailston, of Ilion, previous Operation Candy Canes involved collections of candy and goods for distribution to American soldiers in Afghanistan and Fort Drum, and collections of warm clothing and Beanie Babies for Afghan children.
In addition to conducting Operation Candy Cane IV, Lenarcic said the Herkimer County Hunger Coalition will team with the Fallen Stars Memorial Committee to sponsor a Thanksgiving Night Out at Crowley-Barnum American Legion Post No. 25 in Mohawk on Saturday, Nov. 24. The event will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight and will include entertainment by Dale and Brandon Edwards. The $5 admission charge will help defray travel and updating expenses for the mural that memorializes the men and women from New York state who died while serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The coalition is also planning the annual Gram Lorraine Children’s Program Christmas Concert, which will include entertainment by the Steve Falvo Easy Money Big Band. Lenarcic said the tentative date for the concert is Sunday, Dec. 16. A location, he said, is yet to be determined.