Posted at: 09/24/2013 11:10 PM
Updated at: 09/24/2013 11:12 PM
By: Steph Crock
Program Connects Families with Deployed Soldiers
(ABC 6 News) -- The idea came from a Winona elementary teacher, who was recently deployed in Afghanistan. The USO facility overseas would allow him to check out children's books, record himself reading them out load, then mail that recording home so his kids could hear his voice reading to them. Now, the Winona Public Library is doing something similar for families at home.
While overseas, Matt Reuter wanted to hear his families voices, and how much his two boys were growing up. Now, at the Winona Public Library, kids and families can make DVDs and mail them to their deployed soldier for free.
"Being away from my kids was very difficult," said Reuter. Deployed less than a year, Matt Reuter says the time apart from family felt like forever, and hearing from them wasn’t always a guarantee. "You'd see the face and then you'd only hear audio, then the audio would be in and out so the connection was poor," said Reuter.
Still, he felt he was missing out on watching them grow. "They were 6 and 8 so they were in first grade and third grade," said Reuter. That's where this idea came from, "A recording station where kids can record messages and read books to deployed members and it will get sent off to the deployed member for free," he said.
No more relying on the internet, but sending hard copy DVD's. "This is something that can be played over and over. On my days off, if we had that then, that's what I would be doing because I don't get to see or talk to them every day," said Reuter. That, and a whole section with books that can help educate kids or help them cope with family away in the military. Almost all of it, donated from the community.
"We researched some funds and legacy funds through Minnesota and SELCO was a great grant," said Jennifer Weaver with the Winona County Historical Society.
"The Winona Education Association did a wonderful job donating money for books that I had the privilege of choosing, I enjoyed that a great deal," said fellow teacher Cheri Weaver.
With plenty of help from others, Reuter's idea can help other families better communicate, and he knows how much it'll mean to other deployed soldiers. "Getting mail is worth more than money,” laughed Reuter.
This effort is in partnership with the Winona County Historical Society. The best part, as of now, this is intended to be a permanent resource at the Winona Public Library.