Nursing and veteran students brighten the holidays for military families

Nursing and veteran students at Montco participated in the 2017 Trees for Troops campaignSeveral members of the Student Nurses Club (SNC) and Student Veterans Organization (SVO) from Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) met at Bustard’s Christmas Trees in Lansdale on Dec. 2 to donate trees to military families, as part of the national Trees for Troops weekend campaign.

To raise money to purchase the trees, the students sold raffle tickets during the annual Whitpain Community Festival in September at MCCC’s Central Campus in Blue Bell, raising $700. MCCC’s nursing faculty members donated a laptop as the prize for the raffle drawing. During the last six years, the students have donated 150 trees.

“I always enjoy working with the students from Montgomery County Community College. It’s nice to see people give back,” said Jay Bustard, who owns the tree business with his brother Glenn Bustard. “We have participated in Trees for Troops program for 12 years. This year, the trees will be going to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.”

The students were glad to spend their Saturday morning helping military families have a brighter holiday. They wrote messages of thanks and support on tags that they tied to the trees before they were loaded onto a Federal Express truck.

“I like this event because it helps military families during the holidays while their loved ones are deployed,” said Bob Hartnett, SVO president. “This supports the core values of SVO, to help support each other at school and in the community.”

“We understand how stressful it can be for military families because of our experiences, and we want to let them know we are supporting them,” added Aaron Hull, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I had a brother who was deployed three times, and his family would have appreciated something like this,” said nursing student Jordan Kellogg.

The nursing students included: Jordan Kellogg, Pottstown; Katie Corrado with her son Billy, Lansdale; Natalie Berger, Ambler; Samantha Wilson, Blue Bell; and Bill Palma, Royersford. Nursing instructor Dawn Hildebrand and Connie Fiorentino, assistant professor of nursing and SNC faculty advisor, also helped.

The veteran students included: Bob Hartnett, U.S. Marine Corps, Ambler; Aaron Hill, U.S. Marine Corps, Lansdale; Jack Pessel, U.S. Marine Corps, Harleysville; and Bill Keller, U.S. Army, with sons Ethan and Cole, Collegeville.

“This is one way our nursing students connect with veterans and military families,” said Fiorentino, noting that nurses are often the first people to work with veterans when they return from active duty.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden started a national initiative, Joining Forces, in 2012 to support service members, veterans and their families. As part of this initiative, they launched a campaign to encourage organizations and schools to train nurses in the unique clinical challenges and best practices associated with caring for military service members, veterans and their families, said Fiorentino.

Trees for Troops was launched by the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation in 2005. Since then, more than 193,237 real trees have been delivered to military families throughout the United States and overseas. Trees are contributed by Bustard’s and about 30 other Christmas tree growers and retail lots in the U.S.