Giving Back

First-ever 'Adopt a Vet' Program Brightens Christmas for 88 Veterans

Rose Pagan (center with red shirt) and volunteers work to organize the gifts in her kitchen. Credits: Rose Pagan
Gifts were staged in Pagan's living room. Credits: Rose Pagan
Some of the gifts crept into the hallway. Credits: Rose Pagan

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -- It started simply as a way to provide a brighter Christmas for a few military veterans. By the time she was finished, Rose Pagan and her team of elves had “adopted” 88 veterans across Bergen County in the inaugural Adopt a Vet program.

“It was an amazing show of support, amazing,” said Pagan, who spearheaded the effort with A Hero’s Welcome North Jersey in conjunction with Bergen County Veterans Services.

Initially, Pagan started the program when she broached her new employer, Diakin Applied in Jersey City where she works as an office administrator, about the idea. The company ‘adopted’ four veterans. She thought maybe local friends would be interested in helping, too, so she posted it on Facebook. She said it “just took off within two to three days.”

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She still gets emotional talking about it.

“The support was outstanding, it was beyond successful,” said said. “The amount of people that responded, 90% were from Hasbrouck Heights. It was overwhelming.”

The gift wishes ranged from toys, bikes, clothing, accessories and home goods.

Some parents told her that their children even offered to use their allowance to buy gifts.

“People were always asking ‘What do you need?’...’What can I buy?’” said Pagan.

The number of veterans helped totaled 88. Six were families, 10 to 12 had just come home from deployment. Others were moms, singles, and elderly or disabled. She even arranged for Santa to visit. The veterans were located throughout the county in Emerson, Oakland, Paramus, Hackensack, Wesmont, and those living in veterans homes.

Due to this year's response, Pagan is already looking ahead to next Christmas, when she plans to start in the fall.


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