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Nonprofit president: Annual veterans clothing drive off to great start

Monmouth County residents are joining together to support homeless veterans who are struggling during the holiday season.

During the week of Dec. 13, Independence for Veterans, a nonprofit organization,
delivered $15,400 worth of new winter clothing, plus gift cards, new bedding, toiletries
and necessities to the veterans transitional housing facility in Lyons, Somerset County, according to Stacia McDonough, president of Independence for Veterans.

This year marks the organization’s 10th annual “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm” winter holiday collection to benefit New Jersey’s homeless veterans.

“When we come together to do heartfelt, positive things, anything is possible. The results are profound and make a lasting impact,” said McDonough, who launched the nonprofit organization in 2019 after volunteering with homeless veterans full-time for 15 years.

McDonough is the founder of “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm.” She started the holiday collection 10 years ago to honor her late husband, decorated Vietnam veteran U.S. Air Force Sgt. John E. McDonough, according to a press release.

Mike and Kathleen Robbiani, who were recently named Independence for Veterans’ “Volunteers of the Year,” said, “It was a beautiful experience actually meeting the veterans at the homeless shelter in Lyons. They were so excited! It was so great to see them smile.

“The people in Marlboro, Manalapan and Freehold are extremely generous. A special thanks to M&T Bank in Marlboro and The Chelsea at Manalapan for helping to make this such a wonderful success.

“We are grateful for all those who donated and helped spread holiday joy to these brave ex-servicemen and women. It is a tremendous honor to work with Independence for Veterans. They are a fine, upstanding charity with the biggest heart,” the Robbianis said.

The couple are the owners of the Clock and Doll Shop, 14 School Road West, Marlboro. Their business has been participating as a drop-off location for the annual holiday collection for eight years.

Anyone interested in dropping off new clothing, bedding and/or toiletries at the Clock and Doll Shop may call 732-462-3589.

M&T Bank, 455 Route 520, Marlboro, and The Chelsea at Manalapan, 445 Route 9 South, Manalapan, are also drop-off locations for donated items that will be delivered to the homeless veterans, according to the press release.

For additional information about how to give, or the missions of Independence for Veterans (food and clothing drives, permanent housing, etc.) visit www.i4v.org

All donations are tax deductible. The annual clothing drive will run through Jan. 7.

McDonough said, “Monmouth County businesses and residents have been incredibly kind and generous. They are really going above and beyond to help this cause. (On Dec. 16), the Robbianis drove up from Marlboro with a van load of donations, all from Marlboro, Manalapan and Freehold. Amazing!

“The veterans who came out to help us unload the van were thrilled. It just so happens that five homeless veterans moved in the day before with only the clothes on their back, so Monmouth County residents definitely brightened their day.”

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