Can candy that didn't get taken on Halloween help save a life? Andrew Weinstock knows a way that it can. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

WINTER PARK – For a lot of people, the day after Halloween can be problematic if they bought too much candy, didn’t get enough trick or treaters, and now have to decide what to do with all those fattening sweets sitting in the refrigerator.
Some people take it with them to work, passing it on to their co-workers in the hope that all that chocolate will go to their waistlines, instead.
But there’s another option. Andrew Weinstock would love to get it.
A resident of Winter Park and sophomore at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Weinstock is hoping to collect as much as five tons of post-Halloween candy this year – but not because the trim young student is looking to put on weight. He has a much loftier goal in mind.
“This project is called Operation Gratitude,” he said today, at the Winter Park Community Center. “It’s a Halloween candy collection. This is a great project for all ages.”
Operation Gratitude is a 501c3, non-profit, volunteer-based organization that was established in 2003 in Van Nuys, Calif. The organization sends care packages filled with snacks, toiletries, entertainment items and letters to U.S. Service Members overseas.
“Operation Gratitude seeks to put a smile on a service member’s face and express our nation’s appreciation by sending care packages and letters personally addressed to U.S. Military deployed in harm’s way, their children left behind and Wounded Warriors recovering in transition units,” the organization notes on its Facebook page. “Our mission is to lift morale, bring a smile to a service member’s face and express to our Armed Forces the appreciation and support of the American people.”
Weinstock learned about the organization and its work two years ago, and decided to help out. He began collecting Halloween candy to send to the troops, and in 2009 collected an impressive 911 pounds of candy that got sent overseas.
Last year, Weinstock said, he did even better, collecting two tons of candy. This year he’s even more ambitious, aiming for a whopping five tons.
“It is about sending care packages to our soldiers overseas,” he said. “Our soldiers love getting sweets from home.”
Weinstock said he’s also found that area residents, when they learn about what he plans to do with the candy, are more than happy to contribute and help out.
“This project has grown from small to large,” he said. “It has a tremendous impact on the lives of soldiers deployed to hostile places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”
In addition to sending the candy, Weinstock has worked with local schools that have been writing letters to the soldiers – personalized letters mailed to individual soldiers.
“They all have the same message – ‘Thank you for being brave and God bless you,’ “ Weinstock said.
Working on this project, he said, has been personally rewarding – and a great learning experience.
“For me, there is no greater accomplishment than seeing all the candy I have collected for our soldiers in harm’s way,” he said. “Most people ask why I collect Halloween candy. I tell them because it may save a life.”

Andrew Weinstock, a student at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, speaks during the Winter Park Veterans Day Celebration honoring Winter Park Heroes. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Weinstock took part this morning in the Winter Park Veteran’s Day Celebration honoring Winter Park Heroes from the Armed Services. It was held in honor of Veteran’s Day at the new Winter Park Community Center Ruby Ball Amphitheater.
Rev. Mitchell L. Dawkins, who presided over the ceremony, praised Weinstock for joining in this worthwhile effort.
“Thank you for the outstanding effort you are doing, and I’m sure a lot of people are going to be contacting you to help out,” he said.
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