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Pillowcases for Soldiers

CCM Employees Start Club to Benefit Troops and Nonprofits

When First Lieutenant Joseph Grennon, stationed in Afghanistan, recently received a pillowcase decorated by employees at the County College of Morris (CCM), he felt a particularly strong sense of appreciation. More than just a pillowcase, it had come from the area he calls home.

“My name is Joe Grennon and I am currently stationed in Afghanistan. I wanted to thank you for the pillow cover you made, which I have on my pillow,” he wrote in an email to Concetta Cantelmo of Budd Lake, a lab assistant at CCM. “I am actually originally from Kinnelon, NJ in Morris County, so it is a nice reminder of home for me. Once again I appreciate your support; we all appreciate it over here.”

Edie Nelson of Andover, an Educational Opportunity Fund counselor at CCM, explains that a group of employees at the college were motivated to form a club – the Creative Leadership Club – to focus on helping troops and nonprofits. That motivation came from their experiences as participants in CCM’s 2011 Leadership Academy. The mission of the Leadership Academy is to assist college employees with their professional development and with gaining a deeper insight into the activities of the college and forging stronger connections with one another and the community.

As part of the academy, participants took part in a project building and hand painting bookcases for the children at Headstart of Morris County. Assisting with that project was Suzie Schub, president of Caring Capital of Morristown, which conducts employee team-building programs to help children and families at risk.

This was the first time the academy, which has operated at CCM since 2004, included a community outreach project, says Rita Ragany-Bayer, associate director of Human Resources. “We work in the community so we wanted a way to further our connections with neighboring groups and organizations,” she says.

Not only did the project meet that goal, it generated some strong connections among academy participants.

“We so enjoyed that creative activity that 14 of us decided this year to get together to form a club and continue making crafts to donate to nonprofits or the military,” says Nelson.

Along with Cantelmo and Nelson, the other members are Betty Bahnatka of Mine Hill; Nancy Bareijsza of Pompton Lakes; Jane Biron of Chester; Kari Hawkins of Mount Bethel, PA; Tina Higgins of Hackettstown; Lori Kruppo of Oak Ridge; Jeri LaBruna of Succasunna; Gina Martino of Convent Station; Cheryl Martins of Landing; Katie Olsen of Hopatcong; Fernanda Papalia of Mendham; and Lori Zarandona of Randolph.

Enclosed with each pillowcase the club decorated for the soldiers was a letter explaining the club and a photo of the group holding up their finished products.

“We painted encouraging words and scenes on the pillowcases and sent them off with small cards from each of us, some of us including our email address,” says Nelson. “For our first project as a club, we wanted to show support for our troops.”

To get the pillowcases distributed to the soldiers, the club relied upon Nelson’s son Bryan Anderson, an engineer at Picatinny Arsenal and a CCM graduate, who was on a work project at Bagram Airfield Base in Afghanistan.

Club members meet once a month during lunch time. For their second project, they hand-painted aprons to be used by children at a local nonprofit. Next, they will be decorating tote bags for clients served by the Women’s Center at CCM.


1)      Members of the Creative Leadership Club at County College of Morris decorate pillowcases to send to soldiers in Afghanistan.

2)      Members of the Creative Leadership Club at County College of Morris hold up their finished  pillowcases.