Winter clothing drive will benefit veterans for eighth consecutive year

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Stacia McDonough and her new nonprofit organization, “Independence For Veterans,” have kicked off the eighth annual “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm,” new winter clothing drive to benefit the formerly homeless and disabled veterans who reside at the “Hope For Veterans” transitional housing facility on the Veterans Administration campus in the Lyons section of Bernards Township, Somerset County, and at Vet Haven North in Glen Gardner, Hunterdon County.

Items being collected are new winter hats, scarves, socks, slippers, ear muffs, robes, pajamas, undershirts (all men’s sizes: M to 3XL), thermal underwear, basketball shorts, sweaters, belts, wallets, blankets, toiletries (shampoo, bar soap, baby wipes, razors, deodorant, sunblock, lip balm, etc.), according to a press release.

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The residents are mostly men, however, there are currently 12 former servicewomen (sizes M to 14) residing at the facilities. There are a total of about 200 former servicemen and former servicewomen residing at the two facilities.

In addition to clothing, gift cards from Visa, Amazon, American Express, grocery stores, Walmart and Target are much sought-after items by the veterans, according to McDonough.

The drive will run through Jan. 7. McDonough and several dedicated volunteers will hand-deliver items to each veteran throughout the season, according to the press release.

McDonough was inspired to start the campaign in loving memory of her late husband, John, a highly decorated sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who served “in country” during the Vietnam War. The annual collection is officially “Dedicated in Memory of John E. McDonough.”

McDonough was assigned to the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron. The 21st
TASS engaged in frequent critical combats in Vietnam’s hot zones: Saigon, Anloc and Nha
Trang. The unit earned five presidential citations, according to the press release.

On Veterans Day in 2008, in recognition of his exceptional bravery and leadership,
McDonough was posthumously inducted into the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel.

“As Americans, we must keep our veterans in the forefront. For their service, bravery and
unimaginable sacrifices, these noble warriors should be revered and never forgotten,”
McDonough said. “I am looking forward to a banner year, hoping I can spread a little bit of Christmas cheer to our amazing heroes.”

She said the majority of the nation’s homeless population is comprised of former servicemen and servicewomen.

“It is a tremendous privilege for me to be able to conduct this annual campaign, and an
unparalleled honor to spend quality time with our veterans. It is beyond humbling just to be in their presence,” McDonough said.

There is a drop-off collection box is at Robbiani’s Clock and Doll Shop, 14 School Road West, Marlboro. For more information, contact Michael and Kathleen Robbiani at 732-462-3589.

There is also a drop-off collection box at The Chelsea at Manalapan, 445 Route 9 South,
Manalapan. For more information, contact Laura Milo, director of community relations, at 732-972-6200

For the second consecutive year, Boscov’s at the Ocean County Mall, Toms River, has created a “Giving Tree” for the cause, according to the press release.

Any individuals, business operators or organizations interested in participating with the “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm” drive may contact Stacia McDonough via email at staciamcdonough@hotmail.com or Jena Rae at jenakrae@gmail.com

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