Matthew Wright had an idea and figured it would be one the community of Gulf County would support.
Even that high bar was cleared.
Wright coordinated an effort that culminated this week with the shipment of boxes to Troy (AL) University alumni Terry Thompson and Buck Watford, soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan.
Wright’s idea was “Adopt an Alumni” as a way to provide a hometown connection for the two employees of the Gulf County School District. He enlisted Buck’s wife, Pam, in the effort.
The start, Wright conceded was slow, but he said by the time the word had spread following an article in this newspaper, the end of the campaign this week came in a rush.
“The response has been great,” Wright said while collecting boxes of goodies and handwritten letters from Port St. Joe Elementary and Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High. “People just got really involved at both schools. A couple of teachers, Krystal Smallwood and Sharon Hoffman, made their own boxes.
“I was hoping we would be able to send a couple of boxes to both guys and we will and that just shows you what kind of a community Port St. Joe is. All of sudden (after the newspaper article), a flood came. The Panama City site is slammed. I thought, ‘Ah, now we have a good problem.’”
Wright figured he came up with sufficient items to pack two “major” boxes and monetary contributions – for example, the Port St. Joe NROTC program donated its half of a recent 50/50 drawing at a football game, more than $200 – will go a long way to defraying shipping costs.
Whatever is left over after shipping will be used to purchase iTune cards for Thompson and Watford.
Troy University has long been known for its assistance to members of the military seeking to pursue their undergraduate or graduate degrees.
The school offers a wide array of online courses and has a number of satellite sites such as the one in Panama City.
“I wanted this let them know we are thinking about them,” Wright said of the “Adopt an Alumni” campaign. “Seeing how it turned out I would like to make this an ongoing project, do this several times a year, provide for more soldiers.
“If we could make this our thing, maybe send to 10 soldiers next time, that would be really great. The response to this has just been amazing.”