FALMOUTH — When U.S. Army 1st Lt. Mark Seelen called home to Falmouth from Iraq to tell his mother he needed school supplies for the children in the area he where he was deployed, Barbara Seelen leaped into action.
She called her friends, her church, the Falmouth Rotary and anyone else she could think of, and within two weeks had a shipment ready to mail to Baquba, Iraq.
“It really was a community effort,” Barbara Seelen.
One Falmouth resident, Janet Bowne, hosted a coffee where people brought school supplies to donate. Another resident, Debbie Graul, who works for L.L. Bean, purchased 50 backpacks at a reduced rate through the company store and donated them to the cause. The Falmouth Rotary donated $500, which Seelen said paid to ship the supplies to Iraq. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church collected supplies, Marden’s donated a $50 gift certificate and Staples donated some school supplies.
Seelen collected pens, paper, notebooks, markers, chalk, backpacks and even wool blankets for the children, who do not have desks to sit on while they are in class. Then she and the Holy Martyrs Youth Group got together and packed up all the supplies in L.L. Bean boxes and shipped them to Iraq.
Then it was up to 1st Lt. Seelen and the other soldiers in his unit to distribute the supplies. So they gathered the small communities together and handed out the backpacks, stuffed with school supplies, one-by-one to elementary-age school children in two different towns.
“Helping the Iraqis in humanitarian ways is a huge part of his job right now,” Barbara Seelen said. “He says that’s the best part of his job.”
Seelen said her son has done work like this before, but in the past the Army has funded the effort. This time, though, the effort was entirely supported by the people of Falmouth.
This is not the first time Falmouth residents have reached out to support those living in war-torn nations.
Falmouth High School students have been raising money and putting together supplies for a girls’ school in Afghanistan. Seelen’s two daughters, perhaps inspired by their older brother’s work in Iraq, have been part of the collection effort.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or email@example.com
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Mark Seelen poses with a group of Iraqi school children who are holding school supplies donated by Falmouth residents. Seelen’s mother collected the supplies and donations and mailed them to Iraq. Seelen serves with Attack Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
A group of children stand outside their school in the area near Baquba, Iraq, holding a sign to thank Falmouth residents for their donations of school supplies. U.S. Army 1st Lt. Mark Seelen and his mother, Barbara Seelen, of Falmouth, spearheaded the effort to collect the supplies.