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Scouts' Honor: Kids Come to Marine Families' Aid

About 50 girls and boys give up playtime and sleep to help the needy at Camp Pendleton.

June 01, 2003|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

As a few proud Marines stood by and watched, about 50 Girl and Boy Scouts unloaded more than 5 tons of donated groceries from a U-Haul truck and family cars, sorted the goods and arranged them on tables at Camp Pendleton on Saturday.

For nine of the girls from Aliso Viejo's Troop 408, it was their second trip in little more than a month to the base, where they helped distribute items ranging from tuna to toothpaste to families of Marines who have been away up to 10 months and more, many of them still in Iraq.

Even though their day began in the predawn darkness at Oak Grove Elementary School, they were still ready to clean some barracks after their food giveaway, making "racks" (military jargon for beds) and leaving little notes of appreciation for the returning Marines.

Master Sgt. John Russavage showed the youngsters how to make a rack military style, and hoped to have 900 made that day, along with sweeping and swabbing the rooms.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 05, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Girl Scouts -- The caption for a photograph accompanying an article in some editions of the California section on Sunday misspelled the names of two Girl Scouts who were helping Marines at Camp Pendleton. Sisters Jillian and Alison Alsnauer were misidentified as Jillian and Emily Alshauer.

While their friends were playing or sleeping late this and other Saturday mornings, the Aliso Viejo girls have been raising funds, collecting food, and shopping at Costco, Target and Wal-Mart for the items they donated to the families of absent Marines.

Theresa Martinez, whose husband, Miguel, a sergeant who has been gone for five months, said the food was a godsend that will help her and the couple's four children -- 16, 12, 8 and 5 -- make it through the lean times.

"It's payday to payday," Martinez said.

Tanisha Teachey, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Teachey, has been away since Feb. 2, said, "I haven't had to buy diapers for two months" because of donations.

"You can make it, but you struggle," said Chionesa Howard. "It's been a little bit better because my husband [Sgt. Greg Howard, who has been in the Persian Gulf region since Dec. 6] eats a lot."

About a dozen long tables were piled high Saturday with soft drinks, shampoo, boxes of cereal, loads of Girl Scout cookies, applesauce, rice, soup, peanut butter, instant noodles, baby food, diapers and more diapers, boxes and boxes of macaroni and cheese, shoes, clothes and stuffed animals.

Master Sgt. Bill Bonney, the base's family readiness officer who coordinated the two food giveaways with the Scouts, praised his new young friends.

"What you have done for the families," Bonney said, "has been absolutely phenomenal. Your hard work, giving up your Saturday when you could be home playing," meant so much to the Marines' families.

The youngsters, some of whom said they probably would have been sleeping in, watching TV or playing if not for the project, said they preferred being at the base.

"It makes me feel like I'm a part of their family, even though I don't know them," said Lauren Labac, 10, sporting a military "cover," or hat, that she and the other girls were given by Bonney on their first visit, April 26.

The Girl Scouts, aided by friends and siblings, launched the humanitarian project after two dads, Ricky Mason and Thomas Moore, came up with the idea of devoting the Scouts' annual food drive to Camp Pendleton families.

Mason said the first drive in April looked as though it would be a bust, after he had told Bonney to expect enough food and staples for 100 families. Two days before they were to head out for the base, they had just enough to fill two car trunks. Early that Saturday morning, they had a bit more. And then, at 10 a.m., numerous cars began pulling up to the drop-off point at the school, he said.

When they left for the base a little after 11 a.m., 11 vehicles were packed with about 3 tons of food, Moore said.

Mason's daughter, Jasmine, and Moore's daughter, Alexis, both 9, have been part of Troop 408 since they were Daisy Girl Scouts five years ago with troop leader Patti Mooney.

The girls worked so hard the first time and they couldn't wait to come back again, Mooney said. "I am just so proud of the girls."

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