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From left, soldiers Staff Sgt. Steven Presley, Sgt. 1st Class John Smith and Pvt. Matthew McDougall present a check for an E-Mart gift certificate to Aeshin Orphanage director Melody Yee. The soldiers from Fires Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, raised almost $4,600 from the Camp Casey community to help orphans through the winter.
From left, soldiers Staff Sgt. Steven Presley, Sgt. 1st Class John Smith and Pvt. Matthew McDougall present a check for an E-Mart gift certificate to Aeshin Orphanage director Melody Yee. The soldiers from Fires Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, raised almost $4,600 from the Camp Casey community to help orphans through the winter. (Courtesy of James Peralta)
From left, soldiers Staff Sgt. Steven Presley, Sgt. 1st Class John Smith and Pvt. Matthew McDougall present a check for an E-Mart gift certificate to Aeshin Orphanage director Melody Yee. The soldiers from Fires Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, raised almost $4,600 from the Camp Casey community to help orphans through the winter.
From left, soldiers Staff Sgt. Steven Presley, Sgt. 1st Class John Smith and Pvt. Matthew McDougall present a check for an E-Mart gift certificate to Aeshin Orphanage director Melody Yee. The soldiers from Fires Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, raised almost $4,600 from the Camp Casey community to help orphans through the winter. (Courtesy of James Peralta)
Soldiers from Fires Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, gather with residents of the Aeshin Orphanage in Dongducheon.
Soldiers from Fires Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery, gather with residents of the Aeshin Orphanage in Dongducheon. (Courtesy of James Peralta)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The next time the Big Three automakers need fundraising tips, they might want to check in with a resourceful platoon from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery.

The 15 soldiers of the Bravo Battery’s fires platoon set aside two weeks to raise $1,800 — enough to buy winter coats for 46 children at the Aeshin Orphanage in Dongducheon.

With help from the Camp Casey community, they reached their goal within 24 hours.

When they wrapped up their effort in mid-November, the platoon had raised about $4,600 for the orphanage.

Each child has winter clothing from head to toe, along with blankets, toiletries and gift certificates from E-Mart for future needs.

"We were surprised, but it’s such a happy surprise," said Melody Yee, orphanage director. "The kids are so happy about it. … We’ve never had this much (in donations) to buy things."

Sgt. 1st Class John P. Smith came up with the idea while seeking a platoon community service project. He recalled chaplains collecting funds for a winter heating-oil drive during a previous deployment and figured he’d ask if the orphanage needed the same thing. When they said they needed clothing, Operation Heavenly Warmth was born.

Smith and Staff Sgt. Steven Presley coordinated the project. The platoon’s soldiers collected at the Camp Casey shoppette and post exchange, where they bagged purchases and asked for donations.

"We were expecting spare change," Smith said Wednesday. "People began donating $20, then $40. Some actually purchased a jacket and donated it to a specific child."

In the first few hours of a Friday evening, they collected $900. The next day, they collected $1,200 more.

"I guess it was good timing and a reflection of how hard our soldiers worked to raise the money," said the platoon’s 2nd Lt. James Peralta.

Smith says the platoon may come back to help in the spring to spruce up the orphanage’s playground.

"We’ll look and see if we can fix up the playground with manual labor or maybe raise funds," Smith said.

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