Newton NJ - September 10 was an evening to remember on the Connor Green at Sussex County Community College. The sky was blue, the air was cool and the excitement of the crowd was contagious as Project Help unveiled its Mobile Closet, a repurposed school bus designed to aid local veterans in need.

 

Project Help, founded by Executive Director Sandy Mitchell, is working to assist the more than 6,000 homeless and many more thousands at risk veterans in New Jersey. “This is a national disgrace and it is our mission to change these statistics one veteran at a time,” said Mitchell. “We have to get the message out that veterans, who gave so much, must be on the top of the list for assistance.  We need all hands on deck to make it happen. Real action, not talk is needed.”

 

The conversion of the old yellow bus was a two year long labor of love for Mitchell and the community of volunteers and contributors that made the vision a reality. 

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The concept was simple - a vehicle that could bring clothing, accessories and services to veterans trying to find a job and assimilate back into civilian life. 

 

The interior of the bus was rebuilt with clothes racks, cabinets and drawers - like a huge closet - and the outside was wrapped in a patriotic design. 

 

One of the uses of the mobile closet would be to bring the bus out in advance of college career fairs and job fair events filled with free interview appropriate clothing and shoes. Also aboard the bus whenever possible there would be a professional hairdresser and makeup artist plus volunteers with laptops could help write resumes. 

 

At the unveiling many of the selfless people who gave their time, energy and resources to the project were recognized with beautiful awards.

 

Mike Miller – George’s Salvage donated the school bus

Karl Broton – Broton Contracting built the interior

Mike Merle – All County Transmissions donated all new brakes

Dave Castner – SMART – Sheet metal workers donated the rear exit system and new stairs on the front of the bus

Bernie Cook – Painters and Allied Trades donated the exterior vinyl wrap

 

“Now, Mitchell said, we need the serious financial support of the community to keep supplies available and keep the bus on the road.” She estimated it would cost about $7,500 a year for bus maintenance, insurance and gas.

 

The unveiling celebration included a color guard led by Gunnery Sergeant Jeremy Curcio with a half dozen boy scouts flying the flag and leading in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

 

The sound of the rich tenor voice of Frank Basile reverberated across the lawn as he sang the Star Spangled Banner followed by the roar of more than a 18 motorcycles driven by the American Legion Riders of New Jersey leading the Project Help bus into view and to the pavilion where they circled the bus with roaring engines.

 

There were over 100 participants at the event including SCCC administrators; Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths, all R-24th Dist.; and Freeholders Herb Yardley and Sylvia Petillo.

 

Oroho recognized Mitchell for the success of the project. “Let’s face it,” he said smiling, “you can’t say no to Sandy Mitchell.”

At this time donations of clothing are limited to new underwear, socks, hats and gloves for men, women and children.

 

Monetary donations and volunteers are always needed. Currently there is a special need for part time volunteer drivers. No CDL license is required.  Contact Phil Peraino at jwblack51@yahoo.com or call (973) 896-3570.

 

Project Help is a 501c3 all volunteer charity. Donations are tax deductible as allowed by IRS law. EIN 81-1804210.  Learn more about this great organization at www.ProjectHelp.US.  If immediate response call Sandy at 973-875-2068.