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Veterans Memorial's precious GEMS
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Members of Girls Engaged in Meaningful Service - the newest club at Veterans Memorial Middle School - spent Wednesday afternoon stuffing military care packages.

Most the 120 members of GEMS packed boxes with toiletries, snacks, books, puzzles and pens and pencils.

Club co-sponsors Whitney Jackson and Jessica Jones went to college together at Georgia College and State University and will request a list of students and alumni to send the packages to those currently serving in the military overseas.

Jackson and Jones have known each other since before college, however.

"I've gone to school with Jessica since we were in kindergarten, and we've been in many, many clubs together," Jackson said.

They both decided a club like GEMS was needed at their school.

"Veterans Memorial didn't have a service club," Jackson said. "We also didn't have a club specifically for girls, or that sixth graders could join."

So far club members have organized a support staff appreciation day and helped fill bags for this year's Fuzz Run.

"Most of the stuff we try to do here, so they don't have to get rides," Jackson said.

This year they plan to adopt a family for Christmas, hold a fundraiser for the ill child of a Veterans Memorial teacher, help with the Special Olympics and Relay for Life and read to students at nearby West Newton Elementary.

Next month members will help collect cans for the annual Charity Basketball Game at the school. Students have to bring a can to gain entry to the game during their connections period. To participate in the student on student, teacher on student, three-point shot and half-court shot contests, students have to bring a bag of canned goods.

GEMS members will collect the cans for the Community Food Pantry.

"I expect all the students to participate in that," Jackson said. "They really like that."

Girls have to have passing grades, a good behavior record and pay $1 in yearly dues to become a GEMS member.

Darrien Spiker, seventh grade, said creating military care packages helped ease a little of the anxiety she felt about her father deploying to Iraq next week.

"I joined because I like to help people, and it's a fun activity to do," Spiker said. "You just have fun."

Sixth grader Tila Gibson also jumped at the chance to stuff care packages because she has an uncle currently serving overseas.

"I wanted to join because there's a lot of stuff going on in the club," Gibson said, "and I thought that it would be a good opportunity to learn responsibility and get involved in extracurricular activities."