USFSM held its Veterans Appreciation Day this week.

Bull’s Notebook: USFSM student’s ‘RED Christmas’ to aid military

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: November 10, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (Nov. 08, 2016) USF Sarasota-Manatee psychology student Stephanie Grobleski appreciates the sacrifices of military members, so when it came to returning the gesture Grobleski got creative. Then she turned to USF Sarasota-Manatee’s students, staff and faculty to close the deal.

Bull’s Notebook: USFSM student hopes a ‘RED Christmas’ aids military

Stephanie Grobleski

The result: Those red and green cardboard donation boxes seen popping up around campus since the last week of October.

Through an effort she created called Project RED (Remember Everyone Deployed) Christmas, Grobleski is asking students, faculty and staff to drop off small gift items at the boxes – toiletries, articles of clothing, toys, Christmas cards, even some non-perishable foods like beef jerky and ramen noodles.

“The idea is to give whatever you can to people who have already given so much to us and are away from their families,” Grobleski said.

The senior, who is not a military veteran, came up with idea after imagining what it’s like for young men and women to spend their holidays away from family in often hostile places. Many of those deployed are away from home for the first time and, unlike college students, simply can’t take off to visit mom and dad – or their spouses.

That’s where Project RED Christmas comes in, said Grobleski, who’s hoping to generate enough interest to fill 50 shoebox-sized cartons.

“I just want to do what I can to help,” she said. “If I was out in the desert and didn’t have my family around, I would want something to remind me that people cared.”

A local Girl Scouts troop has agreed to color the boxes and write Christmas messages on cards. A non-profit called Manasota Operation Troop Support (MOTS),, has agreed to ship the packages to bases overseas, and Grobleski is getting empty boxes and customs forms from the Post Office.

Still, Grobleski needs assistance with shipping costs anticipated at $16.90 per box. “My hope is that this will be something that USFSM can be proud of,” she said.

Items and cash contributions will be accepted through Friday, Nov. 18, and on Nov. 19 at 12:30 p.m. Grobleski will hold a “packing party” in room A-214 with free pizza and sodas. All USFSM students are invited.

Color guard kicks off Veterans Appreciation Day at USFSM

Bull’s Notebook: USFSM student hopes a ‘RED Christmas’ aids military

A color guard from A Company Vietnam Veterans kicks off Wednesday’s Veterans Appreciation Day at USFSM.

One group not shy about supporting the military and veterans’ causes visited the campus this week as part of USFSM’s annual Veterans Appreciation Day, held Wednesday.

A color guard from Alpha Company Vietnam Veterans, based in Sarasota, visited the rotunda to hoist the U.S., POW and Florida flags as retired Navy Capt. Robert O’Neill recited the Pledge of Allegiance before 100 students, faculty and staff.

The brief but solemn ceremony kicked off a day-long recognition of USFSM student veterans ahead of Friday’s official Veterans Day holiday.

“My hope for this event is that it brings non-veteran and veteran students together so they show that veterans are appreciated here,” said Todd Hughes, USFSM’s veteran services administrator.

USF System, which includes USFSM, last week was named by Military Times magazine as the nation’s most veteran-friendly university.

Several veteran-support based organizations set up tables in the rotunda for the event, including the USFSM Student Veteran Society; the Navy League, Sarasota-Manatee Council; the Sarasota Veteran Center; Bay Pines VA Healthcare System; the U.S. Marine Corps; and Goodwill. Free food was provided by Joey D’s.

Tommy Swiney, 73, a member of Alpha Company, said he’s been coming to the campus’ Veterans Appreciation Day for the past five or six years.

“These events are important because they let people remember the ones who went before them and to pay them honors,” he said.

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