Parents whose spouses are serving in Saudi Arabia will be able to take advantage of two days of free child care in order to complete Christmas shopping.
It's not a gift from Uncle Sam, but an offer from three Arundel High students who wanted to do their part to make the holidays more bearable for families separated by military assignments.
Amy Sadler, Renia Boring and Tracy Murphy all know something about what it feels like to miss a friend or family member serving in the military since the Gambrills school has numerous students with ties to nearby Fort Meade and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
The idea of families being separated at Christmas touched them and prompted them to action. The teen-agers said they are expecting to care for 50 to 70 youngsters over the two days of the service, Dec. 8-9.
"I just feel sorry for the mothers who are alone," Murphy said. "I would hope to give them time for themselves.
"It will be a load off their shoulders to have someone watch their children so they can do their shopping. You never know if they don't have friends in the area."
So when the high school students began searching for a civic project that would meet the requirements for the school's chapter of Distributive Education Clubs of America, offering free child care to allow husbands and wives time to shop became an easy decision.
In the club, students study business and marketing principles, and they knew they were on to something when they were able to easily use the marketing theory -- find a need and fill it.
The girls are enlisting the help of teachers, classmates and businesses to help those left behind since troops were summoned after the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein.
"I have friends in the Mideast," Tracy said, who is president of the club. "We just thought it was a good idea. We had a lot of help and everyone we asked said yes."
Already, local businesses are contributing to the temporary day-care center, which will be set up in the school's cafeteria.
With promises of a $15 gift certificate from Giant Foods, orange juice for youngsters provided by McDonald's, yogurt from TCBY, art supplies from K mart, and toys supplied by the school's child development class, the girls are on their way to non-profit baby-sitting.
Amy said they are covering all the bases by asking for student volunteers who have taken a baby-sitting course offered at Arundel, and they have also lined up two volunteer paramedics to be on standby.
The service is free. But like any business venture, the girls do stand to gain something besides a warm feeling from the experience. The plan will meet the girl's requirements for the DECA civic project, which will prepare them to compete on a regional and national level.
The school's club has 21 active members, but the Crofton neighbors are finding that the idea they came up with while sitting in class is having a greater impact than they had envisioned.
The day-care service has been included in a Fort Meade newsletter and the students have contacted adult volunteers from nearby churches who will also be on standby.
"I just want to make sure we keep the kids busy," Amy said. "They will be able to make crafts, play, and we will help them make their own gifts."
Military spouses who would like to take advantage of the service may make reservations by calling Arundel High at 674-6500.