Eight-year-old Lilly Zilko figured she needed allowance money less than soldiers around the world needed some holiday cheer.
So the Harris Elementary third-grader gave up some of her weekly spending cash, using it instead to buy some of the candy, cookies, and crackers that Brownie Troop 50215 packed Tuesday into 329 care packages.
The boxes were filled with care by eight- and nine-year-old girls at First United Methodist Church in South Amherst. Their small hands moved quickly to stock bags and boxes with peanuts, fruit snacks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, batteries, and Sudoku puzzle books.
All included cards hand-crafted by the Brownies as well as self-addressed postcards so they know where the packages end up.
Most will go to the United Service Organizations office in Cleveland, then overseas to military personnel. A few will be mailed by Zilko’s family to a shortlist of 10 local servicemen stationed around the globe.
Among the scouts helping out was Addison Beal, a third-grader at Firelands Elementary School. She donated her Halloween candy to the cause.
“I only kept a couple,” she said. “I like Hershey’s but I still donated them.”
Zilko was the architect of the care package plan. She’d made a few before with her mother and wanted to do more, setting a goal of creating 250 boxes and by far surpassing it.
Collection drives were held at Harris, Powers Elementary, and Firelands Elementary. Donation boxes were placed at Arabica on Park Avenue and Amherst IGA on Milan Avenue as well as American Legion Post 118 on North Lake Street.
Those boxes quickly filled up, said Lilly’s mother, Christina Zilko.
“She saw the first box come home and I thought she was going to cry,” Lilly’s mother said. “She was so excited. We just kept bringing more and more home.”
Troop leader Nikki Beal said the young scouts are working this holiday season to complete a journey called “the Brownie Quest” and the USO care packages taught an important lesson on giving. She said parents explained to the Brownies what getting a care package would mean to someone serving their country far away.
“We told them they’re there, away from their families, and we want to brighten their days,” Beal said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.