BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - This year's collection of new winter clothing to benefit the formerly homeless, and disabled veterans currently housed at Community Hope’s “Hope for Veterans” Veterans Administration campus in the Lyons section of Bernards Township has begun for another year, and will continue into December.

Stacia McDonough, a Bedminister resident and widow of a Vietnam veteran, has kicked off her third annual, “They Kept Us Safe, Let's Keep Them Warm" winter clothing drive.

Each year, McDonough personally delivers the donated gifts of warm clothing on Christmas Eve morning to the previously homeless veterans living at the Lyons Campus of the Veterans Administration New Jersey Health Care System. The VA complex is off Valley Road. 

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Items being collected are brand new hats, scarves, socks, slippers, ear muffs, undershirts (L-3XL), and winter coats (L-3XL). In addition, this year a food drive has been included to help stock the food pantry located on the premises. New housing for homeless veterans opened at the VA about a year ago, but the occupants still must provide food and clothing.

The residents are mostly men. However, there currently are  ex-servicewomen residing at the facility.

The collection is being undertaken for the total of 167 ex-servicemen and women who are residing at the two “Hope For Veterans” housing facilities.

Donations may be made through Dec. 23, McDonough said.

The drop off collection boxes are located at a number of places throughout the Somerset Hills area, and elsewhere in New Jersey:

The Salon Studio, 27 Mine Mount Road (second floor), Bernardsville, 07942 (Contact: Kate Phan) Non-perishable food also is being collected at this location.

The Stirling Elks Lodge, 1138 Valley Road, Stirling, 07980 (Contact: Kelly Mazzochi) Non-perishable food also is being collected at this location

Robbiani’s Clock and Doll Shop, 14 School Road West, Marlboro, 07746 (Contact: Michael and Kathleen Robbiani) Non-perishable food also isbeing collected at this location

Salon Seraphim, 55 Willow Lane, 184 Route 9 North, Englishtown, 07726 (Contact: Jennifer Oakley)

Sydney Albert Salon & Spa, 3495 Route 1 South, Princeton, 08540 (Contact: Lauren Sydney)

McDonough was inspired to start this innovative campaign in loving memory of her late husband, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force who served “In Country” during the Vietnam War.

“As Americans, we must keep our brave veterans in the forefront. For their service, bravery, and sacrifice these extraordinary souls should be revered, and never forgotten,” said McDonough. She added is thrilled by the tremendous success of her previous campaigns, which each year have attracted more attention. “I’m looking forward to a banner year, hoping I can spread a little bit of Christmas cheer to our amazing heroes,” she added.

McDonough has been activie in veterans support activities throughout the year. She was the chairperson of this year’s highly successful Annual Hope For Veterans Flag Day 5K Run, bringing in almost double the amount of the previous year’s run. She recently has been appointed to the Hope For Veterans Leadership Committee.

McDonough pointed to the many former servicemen and servicewormen who end up as part of the nation's homeless population. Hope For Veterans®”, based in Parsippany, N.J., is a 501c-3 non-profit organization which provides housing and other necessities for veterans who have fallen on hard times. For further information visit the organization's website at www.communityhope-nj.org, or call 973-463-9600.

Any individuals, businesses, or organizations interested in participating as part of the “They Kept Us Safe, Let's  Keep Them Warm” drive can contact Mrs. McDonough via e-mail at: staciamcdonough@hotmail.com.