A grass-roots effort at Hope College to collect goods for members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq started with a personal connection.

The student members of the residential life team in the college's Kollen Hall residence hall are leading "March to Support" throughout the month to build awareness of the men and women in the U.S. armed forces who are overseas and to reach out to them during their time serving abroad.

The primary effort is a goods drive that is emphasizing items requested by some of the service people currently stationed in Iraq.  The collection is taking place through Friday, March 27.  Students have also been writing postcards with notes of thanks to the service people and will be distributing yellow ribbons as a sign of support.

The effort began when the students were talking with Hope staff member Matthew D'Oyly, who lives in Kollen Hall as a residential coordinator for the college.  D'Oyly mentioned that one of his fraternity brothers from Otterbein College was beginning a third tour with the U.S. Marines in Iraq, and the students took things from there.

"Many of us do not realize that there are so many family and friends fighting for our country, and I think this program will give a little bit more insight and make the community closer," said junior Emily Novak of Shelby Township, a resident assistant in Kollen, who developed the program.  "People may be against the war, but we need to realize that there are soldiers still fighting and we should take care of them."

The items that the drive is seeking have been requested by the members of the platoon in which D'Oyly's fraternity brother is serving near Baghdad.  If the drive garners enough, the distribution will be broadened to include others stationed in the area.

Items that are being sought through the goods drive include canned fruit (pears, peaches, pineapple, oranges); canned soups, chili and rice (pull-top and ready-to-eat), canned vegetables, low-fat trail mix, beef jerky, Jolly Ranchers and other hard candies, non-drowsy decongestant; non-drowsy cold and flu medicine; throat lozenges; foot spray and jock spray (preferably aerosol cans that spray a powder-like product made by Lotrimin or Tinactin); baby wipes (non-scented and with moisturizer); non-oil-based skin moisturizing lotion; chap stick; bug spray; sunscreen; and AA and AAA batteries.

Those with contributions for the drive may deliver the items to either the Student Union Desk or the Student Development Office, both of which are located on the main floor of the DeWitt Center.  The Student Union Desk is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but will be closed from Friday, March 13, through Friday, March 20, because of the college's spring break.  The Student Development Office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The DeWitt Center is located at 141 E. 12th St., facing Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.