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Rotary teams with Cape Elizabeth soldier to help Iraqi students

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Rotary teams with Cape Elizabeth soldier to help Iraqi students

CAPE ELIZABETH — The South Portland and Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club has been working with Cape Elizabeth High School graduate Aaron McKenney to collect school supplies for students in Iraq. Project "Iraqi Help-A-Kid" will put supplies in the hands of nearly 1,500 students.

McKenney, a U.S. Army first lieutenant and infantry platoon leader in Iraq, has started a campaign to help the students by giving them the tools necessary to further their education.

McKenney's father Paul, a former town councilor, is a Rotary member and helped to make the connection between his son and the organization.

Rotary President Joan Frustaci said the project has so far been incredibly successful.

"I knew I wanted to support a project that was meaningful, and when I received the e-mail from Aaron I knew it was a good fit," Frustaci said. "These kids have nothing, and this is a way we can establish some good relations in Iraq."

Bob Flynn, a school supply collection committee member, said in addition to organizing the collection process, he is trying to involve middle school students with the project by encouraging a pen-pal relationship with the students in Iraq.

"It is easy to take a lot for granted," Flynn said. "Items we have access to every day are rare to others. Students can get a better appreciation for the gifts they have if they are made aware of other situations."

Flynn said there are collection boxes throughout the two communities, and they are trying to reach out to businesses and households to collect more supplies.

The collection will wrap up on Dec. 16. The supplies will be shipped to McKenney and he will distribute them to schools.

Flynn said the Rotary is interested in following up the school supply collection with a project involving children's hygiene and sports equipment.

Supplies needed now are pencils, paper, pens, erasers, crayons, children's books, coloring books, staplers, staples, binders, glue, small scissors, calculators and non-electric pencil sharpeners.

The public is invited to help by donating materials, gently used or new, at the Rotary Christmas tree lot at Mill Creek in South Portland starting Nov. 28. Donations can also be made to Rotary Interact students at Cape Elizabeth or South Portland high schools or at the the Purpoodock Country Club any Wednesday through Dec. 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

There are also collection boxes at the Pond Cove IGA, Cape Elizabeth Community Center and Key Bank in Cape Elizabeth, and the South Portland Public Library.

Flynn said cash donations to help with mailing costs are also welcome. Checks can be made out to SP/CE Rotary.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net