It wasn't long after Army Lt. Jason Brinser Pieri of Hamburg arrived in Bosnia in September that he was asking his family and friends back home to send winter clothes and school supplies for the refugee children.
They responded with 82 pairs of boots, which arrived on Christmas Eve.
It wasn't until Pieri, 23, called home Tuesday night that he found out the next delivery will be made in a cargo plane.
"He was speechless," said his mother, Gale.
"Mom, how could you do this?" he asked her.
"I didn't. Your e-mails did," was the reply.
His messages to friends and family tell of the dire conditions of hundreds of children, refugees from the brutal civil war in the former Yugoslav republic.
"The children over here don't have anything. When I say that, I don't mean like 'America-don't have anything.' They have nothing. They have one or two sets of clothes, which they wash in the rain because they can't spare well water to wash clothes," he wrote in an October e-mail. "Most of these children haven't been to school in almost 10 years, some never. It's sadder than anything I've ever seen."
He wrote that one day he saw three children, all less than 12 years old, walking hand in hand down a steep hill into the valley to their mother, who sent them home.
"When I was 8, I couldn't leave our yard without telling Mom or Dad," he wrote.
Mrs. Pieri took some of his e-mails, with their vivid descriptions of the poverty, to Hamburg Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak.
Hoak put the word out to Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, veterans and service groups, Hamburg High School and others. The result is a communitywide effort Saturday to "Pack a Plane." Companies have donated trucks to transport the goods and an empty building to store the clothes until they are flown to Bosnia.
"He can't believe it all," Mrs. Pieri said.
Warm clothing, boots, jackets, books, stuffed animals and school supplies will be collected from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Hamburg Central High School, Frontier Central High School, St. Francis High School and Hamburg Town Hall.
Mrs. Pieri, a nurse at the Waters in Orchard Park, already has a garage full of boxes dropped off at the Waters by staff and visitors.
When Pieri was growing up in Hamburg and attending Hamburg High, his friends knew him as Jason Brinser. His father died when he was younger, and his mother remarried. When he was 19, he and his brother, Christopher, asked their stepfather, Duane Pieri -- the man who had raised them -- to adopt them, their mother said.
Jason Pieri is a 1995 graduate of Hamburg High School, where he was active in sports, ran the 24-hour relay and was a member of the peer listening group. He graduated in 1999 with a degree in mass communication from St. Bonaventure University, where he was a member of the ROTC program. He served an internship in public relations with the Buffalo Bills, and in his letter of recommendation, Denny Lynch, director of community relations for the Bills, called him "exuberant."
His academic adviser at St. Bonaventure, Alan Mackenzie, said Pieri's efforts to help are typical of the student he recalls.
"It doesn't surprise me at all. I remember him as a genuine, sensitive and caring guy," Mackenzie said.