As a child, California school resource officer Scott Harkins said he remembers putting together care packages for members of the military serving in Operation Desert Storm at his school. Now, he's helping to bring a similar effort to California.
Harkins is heading Operation Patriotic Pintos, an SRO program that aims to send care packages to Pintos alumni that are currently stationed for active duty outside of the country. The program was announced at the beginning of January and is already off to a strong start.
"We've gotten really good feedback from the community so far," Harkins said. "We've already had donations, and we haven't asked for anything yet."
Harkins said in roughly the year he's been an SRO in California, he's gotten to know a lot of the administration at California High School, including Assistant Principal Timothy Beydler. Beydler is a reserve for the army, who Harkins said is being deployed soon.
So Harkins expanded the program to include as many former Pintos as he could find, researching to find information about which individuals are serving, their branches and where they're based.
"Right now, (we're at) about ten," Harkins said. "I think there's a few more out there that we're still trying to find."
Harkins said for those who may be concerned about protecting the confidentiality of those that are serving, along with their units, he is working to ensure that any information gathered for the campaign is only accessible by Harkins and fellow SRO Leanna Brown.
In the meantime, the initiative is preparing to start making specific requests for items for community donations. This is because items that will be beneficial to those serving may vary depending on where they're deployed.
"I've got lots of friends that are military and I work with a lot (of people) that are former military, (and) when they were deployed, depending on what part of the world they're in, that list changes," Harkins said. "If you're in a sandy area, you're going to need XYZ, and if you're in Japan, where you're not out in the elements all the time, it's going to be a little bit different."
Harkins said he's aware of former Pintos currently serving in Japan, Africa and Iraq. He said he's hopeful the items that are gathered for them can be sourced from the donations from the schools and community.
Harkins said he's also hopeful in the future, students at the schools can contribute even further to the care packages with letters, providing a personal touch.
"And a lot of (them) are recently prior graduates, so they'll have friends that are here," Harkins said. "I'm hoping to be able to find friends that are already here in the high school that we can take pictures and send those off to remind them of home."
Speaking of personal touches, Harkins said working with the families of those who are deployed to get personal lists of the items they might want is definitely on the agenda.
Moving forward, Operation Patriotic Pintos will be collecting donation items from a number of different areas of need: drink mixes; protein snacks, such as beef jerky, granola bars and packaged tuna; condiments; snacks; toiletries, from shaving cream to cough drops; and entertainment items, such as books, movies and games, along with other items that can serve as reminders of California. Harkins has a full list of items in each of these categories that would be good to donate.
For those who wish to donate, might know of an alum who is currently deployed or may have questions, contact Harkins at [email protected]