When COVID-19 hits the NJ Veteran Community the NJ Veterans Community hits back

(above) NJVN President Michael Boll, Outreach Director Frank “Doc” Schupp and Reverend Richard Starling dropping off food and snacks for the Senior Veterans of Menlo Park Senior Home.

NJ Veterans Community Hits Back

Submitted by Jesus MiroQuesada and Angie Abbot, NJVN

A group of veterans and veterans’ organizations are making a huge difference during New Jersey’s Covid-19 pandemic. The New Jersey Veterans Networks’ “Operation: Helping Heroes” project has two objectives including providing meals and groceries to veterans, and protective equipment to first responders. Food and PPE have been delivered to first responders, hospital workers, and activated National Guardsmen throughout the state.

They have distributed almost 3,000 hot meals and groceries to veterans, National Guardsmen and essential frontline workers at 61 different drop-off locations. The NJVN also provided personal protective equipment and helped distribute over 10,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to hospitals, EMS squads and police departments, and provided over 2,000 protective masks. This all happened during a crucial time when things like food, masks and hand sanitizer were very much needed, but hard to find.

The New Jersey Veteran Network has truly lived up to its name and partnered with a rich network of almost a dozen other organizations in order to fulfill their mission. Non-profits like the Samaritan Outreach Services, Operation Jersey Cares, the CSM Robert Gallagher Charitable Foundation, and Milltown VFW 2319, worked tirelessly to contribute to the Helping Heroes effort by either supporting heroes and first responders working through the crisis, or helping veterans whose health and finances were affected by the pandemic.

Doc Schupp who created the Helping Heroes program had this to say “We were only able to reach and help as many people as we did because we are working with some of the best and most passionate organizations and people in the state. People like James Ludolph, would drive for hours dropping off food to sick and quarantined vets only to ask me what the next mission to help was, or 2319 VFW Commander Bob Kolesare, who would personally go out to help fill veterans’ pantries.”

NJVN Outreach Director, Frank “Doc” Schupp organized the hot meal and groceries portion of the program in collaboration with VFW 2319, Operation: Jersey Cares and Samaritan Outreach Services. Food was donated by restaurants including Jim Dandy of East Rutherford, Marinelli’s and 55 Main both of Flemington, Amici’s of Linden, Burnett BBQ of Union, and Applebee’s of Garfield. Donations were delivered to National Guard units, hospital workers and veteran shelters such as Operation Valor in Newark and Vet Haven North.

Home deliveries of food as well as social service assistance, in coordination with Catholic Charities and PACO agency, were also provided to assist veterans who were quarantined at home due the COVID-19 crisis.

The protective equipment distribution was managed by NJVN President Michael Boll in collaboration with Ashland Chemical who sponsored the hand sanitizer, and Backpacks for Life – a veterans’ organization who has created a full-scale operation to create masks to give to first responders and hospital staff. Protective equipment was given to hospitals including Holy Name of Teaneck, the East Orange and Lyons VA Hospitals, Jersey City and  New Bridge Medical Centers, and police departments including New Providence and Florham Park.

Both the food distribution and PPE could not have been made possible without the volunteers who took the time to pick up and distribute the goods. Great people like James Ludolph, Robert Bouthille, Dana Black, Juan Peris, Jamel Dobbins and Michael Salermo (with the team Mascots Shadow and Mush) and many others made this project happen! Many good people came together and were able to make a positive impact on the community during a difficult time. All of this was done by strong partnerships, unpaid volunteers, and sponsored through donations.

Perhaps, VFW 2319s Commander Bob Kolesare said it best, “VFW 2319 really enjoyed taking care of our vets. We hope that we were able to brighten their days just a little bit during this crisis.”

About New Jersey Veterans Network

We are a group of veterans and volunteers dedicated to helping our veterans and their families live better lives. Our team is raising awareness of our veterans needs by organizing public speaking engagements, meeting with business and political leaders across the state and sponsoring fundraising events. Our mission is to identify veterans and connect them with resources and programs designed to meet their unique set of needs. To ensure that EVERY single one of our veterans, who have sacrificed so much for this great country, receives the resources that they require and deserve. If you are interested in joining our team, would like us to speak at your event, or contributing to our mission, call 973-332-1556 or email mdbollio@optonline.net. To learn more visit njvn.org.

(above) NJVN Outreach Director Doc Schupp and sidekick Shadow dropping off hot meals to National Guardsmen.

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