BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Bedminster resident Stacia McDonough has kicked off her fifth annual, “They Kept Us Safe, Let's Keep Them Warm,” new winter clothing drive to benefit the formerly homeless and disabled veterans that are now in housing on the Veterans Administration campus in the Lyons section of Bernards Township.

McDonough launched the campaign to honor her late husband, Vietnam veteran John E. McDonough. Working with area businesses and volunteers, she has grown the clothing drive beyond its original intent to collect winter coats.

Each holiday, she has delivered the collected warm clothing before Christmas to formerly homeless veterans now living at the Lyons Campus of the Veterans Administration New Jersey Healthcare System off Valley Road in Bernards Township.

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In memory of Vietnam veteran John E. McDonough

Stacia McDonough was inspired to start theinnovative campaign in loving memory of her late husband, a 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.”

Items being collected are brand new winter coats, along with hats, scarves, socks, slippers, ear muffs, robes, pajamas, undershirts (All men’s sizes: L-5XL), thermal underwear, sweaters, blankets, toiletries (shampoo, bar soap, razors, deodorant, sunblock, lip balm, etc.). New kitchenware such as toaster ovens, crock pots, George Forman grills, toasters, coffee makers, Tupperware and more are much appreciated. Bed-in-a Bags are also a much-needed item, according to McDonough.

In addition, gift cards from grocery stores and Wal-Mart are being accepted, she said.

Women as well as men

The residents are mostly men, however, there are currently seven ex-servicewomen (sizes L-14) residing at one of the facilities, she said. 

There are approximately 150 ex-servicemen and women residing at the VA facilities, she said.

This year's drop off collection boxes are located at:

The Salon Studio, 27 Mine Mount Road (second floor), Bernardsville, NJ, 07942 (Contact: Kate Phan) P: (732) 306-3846.

Coldwell Banker Realty, 1 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge, NJ, 07920 (Contact: Theresa Filippone). P: (908) 766-8354, or (908) 766-0808.

Weichert Realtors, 22 Henry St., Basking Ridge, NJ, 07920 (Contact: Carol Conway) P: (908) 334-1986.

Investor’s Bank, 315 Route 202/206, Pluckemin, NJ, 07978 (Contact: Antonella Celli, assistant vice president, branch manager). P: (908) 719-6750.

The Stirling Elks Lodge, 1138 Valley Road, Stirling, NJ, 07980 (Contact: Kelly Mazzochi) *Non-perishable food also being collected at this location P: (908) 672-2079.

Robbiani’s Clock and Doll Shop, 14 School Road West, Marlboro, NJ, 07746 (Contact: Michael and Kathleen Robbiani) P: (732) 462.3589.

Salon Seraphim, 55 Willow Lane, 184 Route #9 North, Englishtown, NJ, 07726 (Contact: Jennifer Oakley or Michelle Whinni) P: (732) 972-5177.

McDonough, along with several dedicated volunteers will personally hand-deliver the gift-wrapped items to each veteran on December 22. Gifts will also be hand-delivered on December 7 to the VA’s PTSD during the annual Rolling Thunder Christmas party.

“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,” McDonough said. She added she has been thrilled by the tremendous success of her previous campaigns.

“I am looking forward to a banner year, hoping I can spread a little bit of Christmas cheer to our amazing heroes,” she added.

Unfortunately, many of our country's homeless population is comprised of former servicemen and women, she said.

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

Any individuals, businesses, or organizations interested in participating with “They Kept Us Safe, Let's Keep Them Warm” drive, can contact Mrs. Stacia McDonough via e-mail at: staciamcdonough@hotmail.com, or Mrs. Jena Rae at jenakrae@gmail.com.