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A recipe for celebrating hometown memories

Students send favorite dishes, holiday cards to soldiers overseas


A teacher’s influence on a child’s life doesn’t always end with the academic year.

Third-grade teacher Robin Hall cooked up an interesting project for her current students to bring holiday cheer to a young man who was in her second-grade classroom 13 years ago.

Calliope Molyneux, whose dad is currently serving with the Army but is home for Christmas, shows off a recipe she is sending to someone who cannot come home

“I’m honored to share that one of my past students, Brandon Shaw, is currently serving in Air Force and is stationed in Germany,” said Hall. “He won’t be able to come home over the holidays so I thought we could send a bit of home to him.”

After receiving a tip from Brandon’s mother that her son was enjoying trying to cook new recipes now that he was on his own, Hall decided to send a cookbook with students’ favorite recipes to her former student.

Lillie Fritz chose her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe; Yailin Palimino sent one for her favorite sweet treat — flan custard; Natalie Johnson wants him to know how to make pizza casserole; Delainey Wilcox chose a holiday dish from her family’s tradition — hummus; and Charlize Mestre is making sure Shaw stays cool with a recipe for a tropical smoothie.

Bryanna Willson-Beedon is sure he will be able to make her chocolate truffle recipe. “They are simple to make. I made them all by myself already,” she said.

Hall prepared a recipe page with a snapshot of each student with their recipe to put into a book. “Every year, I have done a cookie recipe book for my class, so this year is just a twist on that idea,” said Hall.

Third-grade teacher Robin Hall points to picture of a former student, Brandon Shaw, to whom her class is sending holiday greetings

The “Our Favorite Recipes” book was sent along with a box of treats to Shaw.

Holiday Spirit Soars

When other Appleview classrooms heard about the project, the idea to spread Christmas cheer to former Sparta graduates in the military also spread.

Fifth-graders in Melissa Utter’s class made holiday cards and wrote letters to two of her former students — Brandon Bower and his wife Marissa (Noorman) Bower, who are currently stationed overseas as well.

Hall reached out to the high school to find other other recent graduates stationed in the military, but didn’t find any. So other Appleview classes made cards and wrote letters to Brandon Shaw and Brandon and Marissa Bower.

Fourth-grader Hunter Manley checks the correct spelling of his card’s recipient

“They love hearing from home and especially from Sparta,” third-grade teacher Tammy Singleton told the students. “They are working hard to keep us safe, so you should work hard to do your very best work on these cards.”

As students picked up red and green paper, markers, glitter and pens, they were quick to share personal stories about cousins, uncles, parents and grandparents who served in the armed forces.

“My grandma told me stories about my uncle,” said third-grader Isiah Reyes.

“I saw my Uncle Kyle this summer,” said fourth-grader Thatcher DuBois. “He is in the Marines.”

Holiday greetings made by Sparta students

“My cousin Scott DJs with my dad when he is home,” said Kylie Schaefer, a fourth-grader. “He got a back injury when there was a bomb by the road and he was in the jeep.”

Third-grader Calliope Molyneux got to tell her dad, who is currently serving in the Army, about the recipe project, because he is home for Christmas.

“He thought it was a good idea and the soldier would like it,” she said.

While some students said that they could communicate with their family members on Skype or even by phone, they were all excited to send a little holiday cheer to those who couldn’t be home for the holidays.

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great idea! What an awesome idea to reach out to our military families from Sparta and post graduates.
    You have started a great idea for students and the community, perhaps one that will become a tradition.

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