With her father in the military 20 years as an Army aviator and an older sister in the Air Force, Sarah K. Schreifer, owner of Sarah K’s Gourmet, has a personal interest in making the troops smile.



“Our community is closely tied to the military and this is such a fun way to give the troops a little lift during the holiday season,” Schreifer told The Log. 



The annual Halloween Candy Drive began five years ago when Schreifer had purchased a lot of candy to hand out at Sarah K’s and also at home.



“Halloween is my favorite holiday and sadly, I did not have one trick or treater,” she said. “While I was eating my second bag of unclaimed candy, I thought there has to be a better option than gaining 10 pounds.”



While researching Halloween candy and donations online, Schreifer found sites where you could donate candy to the troops.



“I thought it would be a wonderful way to give back,” she said. “I wanted to include the community since we have such a strong military population here, so I asked friends and customers if they would want to contribute their extra candy. The first year was such a success we have continued the tradition and are now on our fifth year.”



Last year, more than 30 people contributed more than 80 pounds of candy, with the best year being when more than 125 pounds was donated. More than 600 pounds has been collected over the years.



The Fifth Annual Halloween Candy Drive will be held Friday, Nov. 1, through Saturday, Nov. 9 at Sarah K’s Gourmet, 34940 U.S. 98 near Cracker Barrel. In addition to candy, children are encouraged to pen the soldiers a note and include a picture of him or herself dressed up for Halloween. 



“We have received emails and pictures of the servicemen thanking us for our donations,” Schreifer said. “We have also had children who relate they received a personalized thank you note from the servicemen.”



The candy, a great morale booster for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, is an excellent means used to bond with the children in the community. 



Besides being a morale booster for the men and women in the service, the servicemen are able to bond with local Iraqi children.



Josh Preston, EOD, emailed to Schreifer that “most of the effort here now lies in 'partnership' events where the Iraqis take the lead and the US supports rather than guides. Even little gestures, like passing out candy as a means of establishing/maintaining rapport, take on added significance. Thank you again for your extraordinarily kind and thoughtful gesture.”



“Not only are we helping our servicemen, but we are also teaching our children valuable lessons,” Schreifer said.  “Parents use it as a learning experience to help their children realize that their candy will help others. Some children come in a bit teary eyed about having to give away a part of their candy, but know it is going to a greater good.



“They always end up leaving happy and proud when we tell them how they are making a difference.  We have also had customers who did not have candy and have donated funds to help with the shipping.  It is really a wonderful community event and a great way for us to acknowledge our military and to help others who are not as fortunate as we are.”