12/23/11 — Airman asks for school supplies instead of holiday care packages

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Airman asks for school supplies instead of holiday care packages

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on December 23, 2011 1:46 PM

Among the millions of packages traveling across the world this holiday season is an interesting collection of school supplies bound for the Middle East and a special group of schoolchildren, thanks to an F-15E fighter pilot based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and his friends.

Not too long ago, Capt. Jonathan Hudgins posted on his Facebook page that he didn't want any Christmas gift care packages while he was in Afghanistan.

Instead of gifts for him, he asked that school supplies be sent overseas for the children he has interacted with who don't have the tools necessary to learn.

Josh McCullen, owner of Jersey Mikes in Goldsboro, and Janelle McCabe, a friend of Hudgins, got the message loud and clear and started a drive to collect school supplies to send to Afghanistan.

"We had heard all over the place that it's just like a Third-World country over there and the kids are the ones hurting more than anyone. Between us three, we just made collection boxes," McCullen said.

Ms. McCabe was humbled by Hudgins' compassion.

"Instead of people sending him Christmas presents he wanted to give back to the community he was in," she said. "I thought it was cool."

McCullen put out collection boxes at his sub shop on East Ash Street where a donation would give customers 10 percent off their purchase, although he said that didn't matter to most of those who gave, McCullen said.

Military customers already get 10 percent off, but they were some of the most gracious givers, he said, helping out their comrade's one-man humanitarian mission in Afghanistan.

"It didn't make a hill of beans difference to them," McCullen said.

Nearly half a dozen boxes stuffed with paper, pencils, dry erase boards and calculators were shipped through UPS Dec. 15, along with Christmas cards for Hudgins and his fellow airmen.

McCullen said he wasn't sure how long it would take the boxes to travel halfway across the world, but it's safe to say that once the gifts he and Ms. McCabe wrapped will be well-received sometime soon and one airman's Christmas wishes will come true thanks to the big hearts of donors half a world away.