Open house encourages letters to U.S. soldiers

By Rachel Hagenbaugh | Staff Writer Published:

Mike Rowe of Mantua is bringing his holiday project to the Sky Plaza's IGA in Garrettsville.

The store, 8283 Windham St., is holding a Christmas Open House from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday with Santa Claus. Rowe will be at the event to encourage children waiting for Santa to pick an ornament off the gift-giving tree. Each ornament will have an address of a military serviceman for the children to send a letter to for Christmas.

Rowe is a Marine who enlisted in 1964 and served in the Vietnam War. "To get a letter from home, from anybody, is heartwarming," Rowe said. "That thought never left me."

Last year, Rowe donated a motorized wheelchair to a 17-year-old boy paralyzed in a motorcycle crash.

IGA's deli manager, Tracy Matta, said she presented the giving tree idea to Rowe, who provided addresses and was happy to come to the event.

"We just think that's real incredible of him," Matta said. "He's just an outgoing, do anything for anyone person. Wherever he's needed he goes."

IGA will be providing holiday food demonstrations that include seafood, meat and cheese platters, cookie displays and holiday baskets, and free samples at each department.

Rowe participated in the Toys For Tots event sponsored by Kepich Ford in November and will be attending two events in December to provide less fortunate children with toys for the holidays.

"You can shoot at me all day and I won't blink an eye, but to give a kid a toy, to look at their face makes me cry when they don't have anything," Rowe said.

The Patio and Deck will be providing dinner for about five families on Dec. 15. Once Rowe found out about the event, he offered to bring a wrapped toy for children of all the families. The dedicated veteran will also be bringing toys to an event hosted by SkyLane Bowling for the children of Blake A. Wolfe of Windham, whose death on Nov. 22 has been ruled a homicide.

"I had ten brothers and sisters, and we never had a Christmas, but we had each other," Rowe said. "If we show a kid when they're young that somebody cares, I think they'll carry that the rest of their life."

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