Suburban Hero: Mundelein High student leads drive to benefit troops
Thanks to Mundelein High School junior Matthew Pawlowski and a student club he founded, U.S. military personnel stationed overseas soon will receive care packages of shampoo, razors, magazines and other sought-after items.
Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq especially will benefit from the Helping Heroes of America Club's second annual collection, which has been underway for a few weeks and runs through Thursday.
Pawlowski said he feels "very humbled" to help American men and women in uniform.
"They put their lives on the line for us every day," the 17-year-old said. "The least I can do is help let them know how much they are appreciated."
Pawlowski launched the Helping Heroes club in 2017. He was inspired by a school ceremony honoring military veterans.
"I wanted the school to be more involved with our military," he said.
For its first activity, the group sent more than 120 holiday cards to veterans at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. It also created a display of U.S. flags outside the school for Veterans Day.
Creating care packages was last year's big project. The club packed up and shipped 33 boxes of soap, sunflower seeds, toiletries, bug repellent, sunscreen, playing cards, gum, powdered drink mix, books and many more goods.
Shipping and distribution were donated by Indianapolis-based Helping Heroes of America. Pawlowski said he named the Mundelein High School club after the group because they were such a big help getting the boxes overseas.
This year's drive is "going great," Pawlowski said.
"We seem to have a decent variety of items," he said. "However, we still could use hygiene products, snacks and caffeine products."
The drive is open to the public. Donations can be left in a large box in the school office.
Teacher and club sponsor Nicole Malham praised Pawlowski for the work he's done on this and other Helping Heroes projects.
"Matt has shown a tremendous amount of leadership and initiative with this club," Malham said.
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