As he has done every year, Assemblyman Mike Miller held a Valentine’s for Vets drive in which his office collected items – toiletries, snacks, candies – for the St. Albans VA Hospital, an extended care facility for our nation’s veterans.
The drive was a smashing success, collecting a tremendous amount of items from residents in Woodhaven and other communities in his district.
One 11-year-old resident heard about the drive and turned around and inspired his entire school to get involved. Jaron Gallagher of Woodhaven says that he felt it was important to get involved for the vets because “they risked their lives for us.”
With the help of his mom Tracey, they spread the word on Facebook and he also inspired his fellow fifth graders and other students at PS 254 on 101st Street in Richmond Hill to get involved. And once the word got out, the donations started pouring in.
A giant box of donations was filled to the brim and presented to Assemblyman Miller when he came to the school to thank the students for their participation.
“It was really great seeing the young students getting involved in this,” he said. “I’m very grateful to Jaron and all the students at PS 254 for thinking of and honoring our veterans.”
Gallagher hopes to emulate the assemblyman and make this an annual event in his school and he’s also eyeing future projects for his classmates.
“Maybe cleaning up a park,” he says. “More kids should be involved in the community.”
Gallagher has been involved in several community projects over the past few years, from cleaning up the Wyckoff-Snedicker Cemetery on 96th Street to the massive cleanup last year of Mary Whalen Playground to painting mailboxes with the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association to help raise money to fight autism.
If young Jaron Gallagher can inspire more of his classmates to continue to get involved with the community like they did for this drive for the veterans, our community’s future will be brighter than ever.
The Ladies’ Auxiliary and the members of American Legion Post 118 also held a drive for the vets of St. Albans and, like the assemblyman, went to deliver the donations in person.
The Ladies’ Auxiliary hosted bingo games for the more than 40 veterans at the center and gave Valentine’s Day gifts to all, items such as candy, playing cards, stuffed animals, and search-a-word books. All of this was made possible from money collected through donations to the American Legion Post 118’s Poppy Program.
Post 118 has also been taking care of those troops currently serving our country, adopting the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, shipping donations out to them on a regular basis.
Post 118’s collection has inspired residents from all over Woodhaven to make donations to the young men and women who are overseas, away from their homes and families.
Natalia Borgia, Woodhaven resident and owner of Beaver Tattoo, contacted the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association wanting to know how she could help the troops.
“Do we still collect care packages for the soldiers?” she wrote. “I was planning on going shopping tomorrow. I'm going to buy some crossword puzzles and playing cards.”
The WRBA put Natalia in touch with Post 118 and her donations went out in the next care package from Woodhaven, directly into the hands of the troops.
Post 118 is still collecting and will be for a while, as the troops are expected to be there for at least another year.
They are specifically looking for donations of laundry detergent pods, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body wash/shampoo (travel size), baby wipes and powder, razors, floss, chewing gum, and assorted candies.
If you’d like to be like Gallagher or Borgia and help our troops, you can drop off donations at Spirare Cleaners next door to the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association at 84-20 Jamaica Avenue.
Many thanks to all of the residents who have made donations, proving once again that caring for others isn’t something we just talk about here in Woodhaven; it’s what we do.