As giggling teenagers in costumes competed for prizes, Hesperia Options for Youth students and staff collected 81 hygiene items for the Thanks 4 Serving non-profit organization to assist active and retired military personnel.

"We always have the fall festival to give the kids a break from homework," said Mike Phillips, an OFY teacher. "Veronica, another teacher in our center, wanted to do something else this time, to collect items for veterans."

Quietly, toothpaste tubes, shampoo, razor blades and wash towels piled up throughout the afternoon at the OFY school at 15555 Main St. a week before Halloween. In the meantime, students held costume competitions and dressed each other up as mummies.

"I had a good time, even if I was a mummy," said Bakari Fortman, 17, a stocky OFY football player, as staff members compiled donations throughout the afternoon.

Phillips has had a passion for veterans since high school 25 years ago, and now is sharing it with teens he teaches.

"I did construction with my uncle, a Vietnam vet," he explained. "He hired almost all vets and would listen to their stories during lunch breaks."

Last year, Philips started Thanks 4 Serving to funnel donations to needy military families.

"We wanted to give donors a chance for a tax deduction," he explained.

Those who want more information about Thanks 4 Serving can see their website at For more information about Options for Youth, a fully accredited public charter school with three locations in Hesperia, visit