Joshua Schara is a member of St. John's Evangelical Church in North Freedom, WI. His program, Project READ (Reading Equipment for America's Defenders) is the largest volunteer undertaking for a teen in the area.
Josh was worried that people were becoming complacent about supporting our troops. So in March of 2007, he contacted the local National Guard unit to see what he could do for them. They told him that troops were in need of reading material to help them stay connected to their families and so they won't feel so homesick. He then designed and set up camouflage collection boxes around town to collect books, magazines, local newspapers and books on tape or CD. He placed one of his boxes in the back of the church and made announcement after church to inform everyone of Project READ.
The response from the community has been overwhelming. The donations have now expanded to consist of personal letters of encouragement, chapstick, gum, hard candy, stationary, Frisbees, sunflower seeds, playing cards and bug spray. He spends each day after school and work collecting the mountainous bags and boxes of donations from businesses and individuals. He then fills each box as full as he can of the donations.
Unfortunately, each small box that the United States Postal Service provides costs $8.98 in postage. Josh had over 100 boxes ready to be shipped when he realized that he would need some financial help. Josh started a part-time job to help pay for the $900 worth of shipping that he needed. Then he decided to meet with the local media to publicize Project READ and his goals. Almost instantly, strangers started calling and asking how they could help and donations for the shipping started to come in. Josh was even asked to attend a local VFW meeting so that they could recognize Project READ and donate $300 to help ship the boxes.
Josh has received phone calls and emails from people that are moved by Project READ and what it means to them; that our younger generation is compassionate and has a social conscience that can be overlooked in today's media coverage of youth.
Normally a very shy person, Project READ has made Josh more confident in himself and what he can do. He was able to raise over $1,000 to ship over 1,800 pounds worth of supplies to our troops so far.