BEDMINSTER, NJ — Bedminster resident Stacia McDonough, the widow of a decorated U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran, Sgt. John E. McDonough, has launched “Independence for Veterans, Inc.” a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The organization is aptly named, as Sgt. McDonough’s birth date was July 4.

McDonough has volunteered with New Jersey’s homeless veterans for the past 14 years, and to honor her late husband, she single-handedly founded an annual Christmas drive named “They Kept Us Safe, Let’s Keep Them Warm." New winter clothing, toiletries and necessities are collected and benefit homeless veterans residing at transitional housing facilities in Lyons and Glen Gardner. It is a unique drive, as all items collected are hand-delivered to the veterans, and their residences. 

In addition to continuing their clothing drive year-round, Independence for Veterans will also focus their fundraising efforts on constructing tiny houses for veterans who have fallen on hard times. The homes will be gifted to each veteran, leaving them responsible for their utility bills, and daily living expenses. 

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“We want to give them their own home, and their dignity back.  If anyone deserves it, they deserve it,” said McDonough.   

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are more than 40,000 homeless veterans in America. 

 “These statistics are immensely disturbing,” McDonough said. “This dilemma must be addressed, and solved. These extraordinarily brave ex-servicemen and women put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. As Americans, and human beings, for their sacrifices it is our duty to make them a high priority, and safeguard them now.”

“For more than a decade, I witnessed firsthand the tremendous support of Stacia McDonough and the volunteer corps she built to support our veterans in need,” said Julia Bey Ahmet, managing director of Jeffrey Sobel Consulting and former Chief Development Officer of Community Hope/Hope For Veterans. “Each year, their holiday drive provided our homeless veterans with new coats, boots and warm winter clothing. Her compassion and dedication to our veterans is immeasurable and will drive the success of Independence for Veterans."

“It is very, very upsetting to me that the veterans do not get the attention that they deserve.  I think it is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.  In my 15 years of volunteering, they never say anything, they never complain.  n the meantime, there is a veteran suicide almost every hour of every day in the United States. We are going to do the best that we can to be a voice for them,” said McDonough.  

To date, Independence for Veterans has raised about $15,000 to build their tiny home village.  The organization plans to begin by raising enough money to purchase and donate a dozen homes for homeless veterans, setting a fundraising goal of roughly $150,000 to $200,000.      

For further information on how to sponsor, donate, volunteer or fundraise for this organization please visit their website: www.independenceforveterans.org.