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Two tons shipped for peace
Matthew Freeman Project highlights work
Jim Bunn, a co-founder of the Matthew Freeman Project, left, with Mark Bolton, the of Coastal Electric Cooperative, and Lisa Freeman at the press conference announcing the creation of a 5K run to help raise money for the Matthew Freeman Project. - photo by Photo by Hallie D. Martin
Earlier this month, Jim Bunn had a dilemma.
The co-founder and volunteer of the Matthew Freeman Project: Pens & Paper for Peace had to find a way to move 1.5 tons of school supplies from Gulfport, Miss., to Camp Atterbury Base in Edinburgh, Ind., where the PRT Nuristan Mountaineers were stationed.
Students of the Gulfport High School recently collected the supplies, and the Mountaineers had agreed to distribute the supplies in Afghanistan during an impending deployment.
“We had all this material and we had to move it,” Bunn said.
It was a Tuesday. Bunn called Mark Bolton, the vice president of communications and marketing of the Coastal Electric Cooperative in Richmond Hill, who had previously agreed to help out the project in any way he could.
“I could tell by his voice that he was in a predicament,” Bolton said of Bunn.
Bolton wasn’t sure how he could help move the supplies more than 700 miles to Camp Atterbury. The pens and reams of paper were sitting Gulfport, Miss., in the 10th floor apartment of Theresa Freeman, the widow of Marine Capt. Matthew Freeman who died last year in Afghanistan.. The high school students had recently surprised her with the supplies. But Theresa Freeman, a captain in the Air Force, was also getting ready to go out of town and needed to get the bins out of her apartment.
Bolton said he was determined to find a way.
“My first thought was, ‘we are going to help,’” Bolton said, even if he had to rent a U-Haul.
Bolton reached out to Jim Bausell, the chief operating officer of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives in Alaska, and the two of them started reaching across state lines to different electric cooperatives.  
After one hour and 53 minutes of a flurry of rapid-fire e-mails, it was set. There would be a truck at Freeman’s apartment the next morning, and volunteers ready to move 38 plastic tubs filled with supplies out the apartment, shrink wrap and place them on a palette, and haul it to Indiana.
The supplies arrived in Indiana in plenty of time and are currently en route to the Nuristan Province in Afghanistan.
In the three months since the Matthew Freeman Project launched on Memorial Day, two tons of school supplies have been shipped to Afghanistan, said Bunn and Lisa Freeman, the mother of Matthew Freeman, during a press conference Friday afternoon. The meeting was called to update the community on how far the project has come, tell the story of the “One-Hour-53-Minute Miracle Shipment,” and to announce the Capt. Matthew Freeman 5k Run For Peace to take place on Veterans Day in Richmond Hill.
The Matthew Freeman Project’s mission is to provide school supplies to children in Afghanistan, or any other place where a child’s education has been interrupted by armed conflict. Lisa Freeman founded it in the months after her son died. She was inspired by the last words her son said to her about the children in Afghanistan wanting pens and paper more than food.
Bunn and Lisa Freeman both said they were stunned that the project has taken off the way it did.
“I had no idea it would go this quickly,” Freeman said after the press conference, held Friday at the Richmond Hill City Center. She hopes that the not-for-profit will be a national organization eventually.
The organization has already collected supplies from Texas, Georgia and Florida and is getting ready to collect from New Jersey and Connecticut, Bunn said.
There was no way the project’s volunteers could have anticipated the kind of outpouring and support they’ve received so far, Bunn said.
“The cause resonates with people,” he said. “People understand the power of education.”
The Matthew Freeman 5K Run for Peace will take place at 9 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 11, at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill. Freeman said they originally planned the 5K for Memorial Day, but there was such an overwhelming response to the project, the date was moved.
Proceeds from the 5K will go to shipping the school supplies to Afghanistan. There will also be a silent auction, brunch and other activities to coincide with Richmond Hill’s Veterans Day observance.
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