SIMI VALLEY – Students from two high schools converged on a post office last week to mail 250 care packages they helped assemble to reach American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by Valentine’s Day. “It will be nice if we can get it to them by Valentine’s Day, but it would be good any day of the year,” said Hannah Westerdoll, 16, one of the Santa Susana High School students who joined in the effort. The care package program was organized by For the Troops, a nonprofit organization formed last year by Simi Valley resident Paula Cornell and Janie Josephson of Woodland Hills. At Santa Susana High, it was turned into a contest called Let’s Give Back, with the winning class getting a pizza party. She said although she and Josephson didn’t know anyone serving abroad personally, they wanted to develop a grass-roots, nonpolitical effort to show they cared. “We’re just trying to make a difference,” Josephson said. “We’ve gotten e-mails from guys and gals saying they can’t believe they got a care package from someone who was not related. It’s very gratifying.” Murray Shapiro of Chatsworth, a highly decorated Army veteran who was in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, came out Thursday in uniform when the packages were mailed because his son is involved in For the Troops and he wanted to show support. Shapiro, 83, said he can still remember how happy he was to get the packages of kosher salami, cookies and other gifts he received from loved ones during World War II. “It shows people care,” he said. Cornell said she was motivated to form the For the Troops organization because of her husband Jim’s military background. He served in the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in 1969. One of the For the Troops volunteers was Toni Choma of Simi Valley, whose husband, Stephen, is a Marine stationed in Iraq. “This is a great opportunity to help as many soldiers as I can,” she said. “They really need it. I know my husband appreciates it.” Sara Liebman, the advisory program coordinator at Santa Susana, said ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade classes participated in the Let’s Give Back contest to see which class could collect the most items. Students from Simi Valley High’s Key Club also helped put together the care packages. “This will be a pickup for Valentine’s Day,” said Mackenzie Seibert, 15, one of the Simi Valley High students. “It shows that people care for (the troops) and support them back in the states.” The For the Troops wish list includes candy, cookies, nuts, power bars and dried fruit, nonprescription medications, magazines, handheld games, travel-size board games and puzzles, DVDs, CDs, athletic socks, plastic storage bags, ground coffee, beef jerky and AA and AAA batteries. Josephson and Cornell said they are interested in obtaining the names of more local people serving in the armed forces who would appreciate receiving the care packages. Information on the organization is available at www.forthetroops.us. [email protected] (805) 583-7602 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “Community service is an important part of their education,” said Principal Pam Carter, who was at the post office Thursday. “The kids were very excited about this, and we are thrilled to be able to do it.” Josephson and Cornell said the focus was really on the troops overseas. “They say this really builds their morale,” Josephson said. “It’s so heartwarming to feel we are bringing a little touch from home.” Some of the packages are sent with notes written by elementary and high school children. “We shipped 209 packages Dec. 19 and got e-mails from soldiers who said they got them Christmas Eve,” said Cornell, expressing confidence many of the packages mailed Thursday would arrive by Valentine’s Day.