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Veteran’s widow begins annual collection to assist former service members

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To celebrate Veterans Day, Stacia McDonough and her award-winning nonprofit organization Independence for Veterans has kicked off their 11th annual Christmas “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm” new clothing drive to benefit the formerly homeless and disabled veterans currently residing at two New Jersey veterans’ shelters.

Since Jan. 1, the nonprofit organization has hand-delivered $79,000 worth of groceries,
clothing and necessities to the two shelters. The charity’s goal is to hit $100,000 in donations by year’s end, according to a press release.

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Items being collected are brand new coats, hoodies, winter hats, socks, slippers, ear muffs,
robes, pajamas, undershirts (all men’s sizes: M to 3XL), thermal underwear, basketball shorts, sweaters, belts, wallets, blankets, toiletries (shampoo, body wash, baby wipes, razors, deodorant, sunblock, lip balm, etc.), bedding, housewares (crock pots, smoothie blenders and coffee makers).

All items collected are hand-delivered directly to the shelters by McDonough and her team of dedicated volunteers.

The residents are mostly men, however, there are an estimated 12 former servicewomen (sizes M to 14) residing at the facilities. There are a combined total of approximately 200-plus former servicemen and former servicewomen residing at the two facilities, according to the press release.

In addition, gift cards from Visa, Amazon, grocery stores, Walmart and Target are much appreciated by the veterans.

The drive will run from Nov. 10 through Jan. 6.

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

In 2008, in recognition of his exceptional bravery and extraordinary leadership, Sgt. John E. 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,” said McDonough. “I am looking forward to a banner year, hoping I can spread a little bit of Christmas cheer to our amazing heroes.”

On any given night an estimated 40,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets, according to the press release.

“It is a tremendous privilege for me to be able to conduct this 11th 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.

Drop-off collection boxes are located at:

• The Chelsea at Manalapan, 445 Route 9, Manalapan; contact Laura Milo, 732-972-
6200;

• Robbiani’s Clock & Doll Shoppe, 14 School Road West, Marlboro; contact Michael Robbiani, 732-462-3589;

• M&T Bank, 455 Route 520, Marlboro; contact Tara Coughlan, 732-536-6795.

Any individuals or businesses that are interested in a sponsorship, or partnership, or for further information about Independence for Veterans, may visit www.independenceforveterans.org or www.i4v.org. All monetary donations are tax deductible.

Any individuals, businesses or organizations interested in participating with the “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm” drive may contact Stacia McDonough at info@independenceforveterans.org

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