OPSHBX NJ Commemorates 13th Anniversary; Volunteers invited to pack boxes for troops Feb. 10
Volunteers are invited to join Operation Shoebox New Jersey staff to commemorate its 13th anniversary Feb. 10 and help assemble personal care packages for shipment to U.S. troops in the Mideast and around the world.
The packing event will be at the Walter Kavanaugh VFW Post #2290, 600 Washington Ave., Manville, with registration at 10:30 a.m., followed by opening ceremonies. Packing begins at 11 a.m. A light lunch will be provided.
OPSHBX NJ expects to pack 1,000 boxes during the event; since its first packing event in 2005, tens of thousands of volunteers have hlped assemble and ship 136,000 care packages overseas.
Volunteer packers are encouraged to donate personal care items for shipment, including snacks and toiletries. Check the shopping list on our website and bring along a bag of needed items.
The packages sent overseas will include cans of tuna, cans of fruit, trail mix, beef jerky, gum, candy, granola bars, powdered drink mixes, coffee, tea, oatmeal, hot chocolate, toothpaste, tooth brushes, ear swabs, moist wipes, sun block, eye drops, soap, shampoo, socks, stationary, envelopes, pens, batteries and other items.
Each package will also several bags of candy donated by shoppers at ACME Supermarkets.
Volunteers will also have the opportunity to sit down and write a short letter or card to the troops; all cards and letters will be inserted into the boxes. We’ll also add stuffed animals and other gift items.
Financial support is also needed to help pay the costs of shipping the packages. All donations are tax deductible.
Call Operation Shoebox New Jersey headquarters at (908) 698-0333 for further information.
TD Bank Employees from Maine to Florida Fill 42-Foot Truck with Donations for OPSHBX NJ
HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Volunteers from Operation Shoebox New Jersey and the Rotary Club of Hillsborough recently unloaded a 42-foot trailer truck packed with donations collected by employees at 1,600 TD Bank branches from Maine to Florida destined for shipment to US troops deployed around the world.
This is the fourth year TD Bank employees have joined together to support the efforts of OPSHBX NJ, a volunteer organization that has shipped over 130,000 personal care packages overseas since its first packing event in 2005.
The donations from each branch were shipped to a central location in Cherry Hill, where 100 TD Bank employees spent the day sorting and packing over 300 shipping boxes that were loaded onto the trailer for delivery to OPSHBX NJ headquarters off Route 206.
Thank You from Kuwait
Mr. Hirsch/Operation Shoebox NJ Team:
Thank you so much for the wonderful care packages sent to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait! The Soldiers loved the items. We’ve even shared them with some of the locals here. And we’ve pushed some up into Syria for our Special Forces troops who have nothing. We are located at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait which is about 30 miles south of Kuwait City. We have Soldiers here and in Iraq and Syria. Our unit is the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). We are responsible for managing all ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria. The mission is dangerous. Please keep our Soldiers in prayer for safety, health, courage, and mission success. We arrived last July from the XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, NC and will leave July 2017. Well, again, thank you for the care packages. We could not do what we do without knowing we have the support, prayers, and love of those back home. You are truly the wind beneath our wings. Thank you for helping keep morale boosted over the holidays, an especially difficult time for our deployed troops. You have brought many a smile to our Soldiers, Airmen, Soldiers, and Marines faces, as well as some of the local citizens. You have helped our team to run one more lap around the deployment track. Thank you. We all wish each of you and yours a most blessed New Year! Lord’s continued blessings upon you and your families!
CH (MAJ) Shannon K. Philio
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
A Holiday Message
In the spirit of the holiday season, please share this letter from a deployed US soldier with everyone you know.
It’s why we do what we do throughout the entire year.
My sincere thanks to everyone for ensuring the supply line of personal care packages from Operation Shoebox New Jersey continues to reach the men and women of the US military deployed overseas.
Wishing all a joyous holiday season and peaceful New Year.
My name is Calvin Hubbard, I am currently deployed overseas and my unit recently pushed soldiers forward where they had limited supply, no way to purchase comfort items, and a very difficult area to receive packages. The men and women out there are busting their asses everyday with a tough quality of life. We were able to push some care packages forward to them last week and I saw firsthand how thrilled they were to receive things that reminded them of home. Today we received a large number of care packages from your organization which we were fortunate enough to push forward before Christmas. We found a letter from you in one of the boxes and wanted to reach out. All of us here are incredibly grateful for your organizations support, the time and money it takes for helping us. Let everyone at Operation Shoebox know from us that their work truly makes a difference and on behalf of our unit here, Merry Christmas.
Calvin G. Hubbard
Operation Shoebox New Jersey Invites Volunteers to Help Assemble Christmas Care Packages for US Troops Overseas
MANVILLE, NJ – Volunteers are invited to help Operation Shoebox New Jersey assemble Christmas care packages for shipment to US troops overseas on Saturday, Nov.19th at the Manville VFW, 600 Washington Ave., from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.
This is the 12th consecutive year the VFW has hosted the holiday packing; hundreds of volunteers turn out each year to help pack in excess of 1,000 care packages that will be sent to US troops deployed in the Mideast, Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Africa – even Antarctica.
The contents of Operation Shoebox New Jersey care packages include boxes of Girl Scout cookies, bags of loose candy, bags of food and snack items and bags of toiletries and personal care items, plus letters of well wishes and Christmas cards. Each box weighs between 6-8 pounds.
Operation Shoebox volunteers have been collecting donations for this and other packing events to be held before the end of the year, and donations have been received from schools, businesses, civic groups and churches.
Local dentist offices have collected and donated several tons of candy from their young patients, and Acme Supermarkets also donated tons of Hershey candy products to Operation Shoebox New Jersey collected during “Operation Sweetness” at 180 stores in six states – New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
Rather than donating food and toiletry items, Operation Shoebox New Jersey is asking those who participate to donate $25 and sponsor a care package to a soldier/sailor/airman overseas. The donation will help to pay the cost of postage for the care packages.
Retail items will also be sold, with proceeds dedicated to shipping care packages.
Joe Bodnar Wins Bid Calling Championship During Charity Event Sponsored by the New Jersey State Society of Auctioneers
BRIDGEWATER, NJ – The New Jersey State Society of Auctioneers hosted the 8th annual statewide bid calling championship at TD Bank Ballpark, with all proceeds from the July 31 auction donated to Operation Shoebox New Jersey.
Joe Bodnar of Bodnar’s Auctions was selected as the winner by a group of three judges, including Chaser/reporter Jessica Nutt of “Chasing News” who was there to film a segment on the event which was later broadcast on several TV stations in the metropolitan New York and Philadelphia markets.
(Access the 3:50 Chasing News segment at https://www.facebook.com/opshoeboxnj/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel)
There were six auctioneers in the NJSSA contest. Together, they raised $2,100 for OPSHBX NJ during the 15-minute auction, which was held under threatening skies in between games of a doubleheader at the home of the Somerset Patriots, reigning champions of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
This was Bodnar’s third time winning the championship; auctioneers were graded based on their overall presentation, their “chant,” and their ability to engage the crowd.
“it’s nice to win, especially when you’re competing against your peers, but it’s more about going out there and raising money and awareness for Operation Shoebox and the auction profession,” Bodnar said. “I believe in the profession; it’s the best way to liquidate an estate or to sell what you don’t want any more versus a yard sale or online. This really put us in the spotlight.”
Operation Shoebox New Jersey is a 501C3 non-profit volunteer organization that ships personal care packages to US troops deployed around the world. More than 100,000 care packages have been received by soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines since the New Jersey organization was founded in 2005.
Auctioneers stood on the roof of the Patriot’s dugout, with bidders seated in the box seats behind the dugout. The auction was shown on the ballpark’s video scoreboard which looms over rightfield.
Bidding was spirited, with a game-used base, signed by all members of the Patriots, selling for $200; a team-signed bat sold for $170; a signed team jersey sold for $140 and a luxury suite sold for $340.
Each auctioneer also brought an item to be sold, including a gift basket with a gift certificate and $100 worth of lottery ticket from Robert Babington of South Jersey Auctions by Babington Auction, Inc. He is also president of the NJSSA.
Bodnar also brought a gift basket that included a $100 gift certificate, a bottle of champagne, an antiques reference guide for the beginner and a cigar.
Bodnar explains, “After you make your first million buying at auction, you can sit back, crack open a bottle of champagne and smoke a cigar to celebrate.”
Also competing were Robert Cammarieri, a member of the NJSSA Board of Directors; former winner Tommy Graves of Bodnar’s Auctions, Bob Dan of Max Spann Realtors Auctions and Alfred Finocchiaro, Alfred’s Auctions, also a past winner.
“We are extremely grateful for the continuing support of the NJSSA,” said Rod Hirsch, founder and executive director of Operation Shoebox New Jersey. “The auction format is a real crowd pleaser; the fans absolutely love to watch the auctioneers and participate.
“Each year, the auctioneers give it their all, which helps to drive up the prices and raise more money to help pay for shipping our care packages overseas,” Hirsch added.
A complete list of NJSSA members is available on the organization’s website, www.njssa.com.
Rotary District 7510 Presents Jean Harris Award to Operation Shoebox New Jersey Founder
BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Rotary International District 7510 presented the Jean Harris Award to Rod Hirsch, founder and executive director of Operation Shoebox New Jersey at its Annual Assembly held at the Bridgewater Marriot Hotel.
In 1997-98, the Rotary International Board approved the creation of the Jean Harris Award which bears the name of the wife of Paul Harris, founder of Rotary International. This distinguished award honored the efforts of non-Rotarian women who have made a significant contribution to the development and progress of others in their communities.
The award has since become gender-neutral. District 7510 recognizes a non-Rotarian whose volunteer efforts have made a significant impact on the lives of others.
District 7510 includes 39 Rotary Clubs in several counties in central New Jersey. Each club has the opportunity to nominate someone from their community for the award. A committee selects one recipient each year; this marked the first time the Hillsborough Rotary had nominated someone for the honor.
Hirsch acknowledged the support of the Hillsborough Rotary and the efforts of thousands of volunteers who contribute their time to help collect donations and assemble care packages that are shipped to US troops deployed around the world.
“None of this happens without the efforts of our volunteers,” Hirsch said.
Operation Shoebox New Jersey, founded in 2005, has its state headquarters in Hillsborough. The volunteer organization has shipped 103,950 care packages containing food and toiletry items overseas. All of the contents are donated.
The Hillsborough Rotary sponsors a Christmas packing annually in December at the Hillsborough YMCA with Operation Shoebox New Jersey; last year, the event attracted nearly 1,000 volunteers and by day’s end, 1,650 boxes had been assembled for shipment overseas.
April 30th, 2016 – St. Rose of Lima RC Church, Short Hills
40 volunteers packed 200 care packages. The parish donated $1,500 to help pay costs of shipping.
April 28, 2016 – Affinity Federal Credit Union, Basking Ridge, Take Your Child to Work Day
Affinity FCU employees and their children participated in “Take Your Child to Work Day” activities, including some time spent with Operation Shoebox New Jersey to pack 150 care packages for shipment to US troops overseas. The children also wrote cards and letters that were included in the boxes. Affinity FCU employees donated $500 to help pay the costs of shipping the care packages.
April 19, 2016 – Seton Hall Prep School, West Orange
Seton Hall Prep School in West Orange NJ hosted a packing with Operation Shoebox New Jersey on Tuesday, April 19. The event was organized by Brian Jordan, with 60 student volunteers helping to pack 300 care packages for shipment to US troops overseas. The students also wrote cards and letters that were included in the boxes. The Seton Hall students raised $4,000 to help pay the costs of shipping the care packages.
April 8, 2016 – Hilltop School, Mendham
Hilltop School in Mendham, NJ hosted a packing with Operation Shoebox New Jersey on Friday, April 8. Students in grades K-4 packed 300 care packages for shipment to US troops overseas and wrote cards and letters that were included in the boxes. The students also collected pennies and donated a total of $1,514 to help pay the costs of shipping the care packages.
Operation Shoebox New Jersey volunteers pack 1,100 care packages at Manville VFW
It was a close call, with embers flying overhead and landing alongside our building. What followed was a daunting 48 hours gaining access to our building, working with the police to let us through the roadblocks, dragging out boxes and supplies by flashlight and getting the truck packed for our 11th anniversary event at the Manville VFW on Saturday, Feb.13.
There are too many people to thank by name, but I will single out volunteers Ted Stirling, Dave Weber, and Steve Zampella and his son “Zeke” for making a big difference getting the truck packed on Friday.
We had more than 400 volunteers help pack 1,100 boxes, including six lineman from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, soldiers and recruits from the Somerville Recruitment Office, our fraternity friends from NJIT, the Canal Walk Veterans Club, Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher, Somerset County Freeholder Director Pat Walsh and her husband Jack, dozens of Girl Scouts, high school students, couples and families. We set up beginning at 8 am, began packing at 11:15 a.m., and had the truck packed and the floor swept by 1:40 p.m. Thanks to all for your help! Special thanks to OPSHBX NJ volunteer Gary Weisner for the photos. the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office for lending a hand, and our host and longtime partner, VFW Post 2290 Manville and our good friend Jim Wisor.
Todd Frazier Autograph Signing Cancelled
Unfortunately, the Saturday, Jan. 23 autograph signing session with MLB Home Run King Todd Frazier at the Freehold Mall has been cancelled because of the impending winter storm. We are trying to reschedule before Todd leaves for Spring Training next month.
MLB Home Run King Todd Frazier Signs Autographs to Raise Money for Operation Shoebox
FREEHOLD – New Jersey sports legend Todd Frazier, All-Star third baseman for the Chicago White Sox and reigning MLB Home Run Derby Champion, is stepping up to the plate with Pro Custom Solar to support Operation Shoebox New Jersey.
Pro Custom Solar, an Edison company that designs and installs custom solar energy systems, will host a charity event Jan. 23 at the Freehold Raceway Mall – located off Route 9 across from Freehold Raceway – to kick off their partnership with Operation Shoebox New Jersey. Frazier, a Toms River native and environmental enthusiast, will sign autographs for fans from noon-2 p.m. to help raise awareness for both organizations.
A lifelong resident of the Garden State, Frazier will donate all proceeds to Operation Shoebox New Jersey, a non-profit charity based in Somerville, NJ that ships personal care packages to US troops deployed around the world.
Fans are invited to meet Frazier and get one autographed photo or autograph on paper for a $20 donation. Fans can also bring any one item of memorabilia – bat, glove, cap, or jersey – to be autographed for a $50 donation.
Pro Custom Solar will also be making donations to OPSHBX NJ for any new customers that sign up for solar, according to owner Arthur Souritzidis.
Frazier, who starred offensively and defensively as a member of the 1998 Toms River Little League World Champions, played college ball at Rutgers University before signing with the Cincinnati Reds as a First Round draft choice. He played for the Reds for five years before he was traded to Chicago in December.
During the 2015 All-Star game festivities in Cincinnati, Frazier put on a power display at the Home Run Derby, belting a total of 39 home runs in the elimination contest. His tape-measure shots in front of the hometown fans were good enough to beat seven other Major Leaguers from the American and National Leagues.
He finished up the 2015 season with 35 home runs and 89 RBIs, batted .257, had 43 doubles and stole 13 bases.
“We are excited about our new partnership with Operation Shoebox NJ and cannot wait to start making donations in honor of our new potential customers. It’s a rewarding feeling knowing that everyone’s generosity can help put a smile on the face of a soldier or a Marine,” said Souritzidis. “God Bless America.
Founded in February 2005, Operation Shoebox NJ, now entering its 11th year of operation, is a volunteer grass roots organization dedicated to collecting donated supplies and shipping care packages to U.S. troops overseas. The non-profit organization has shipped more than 100,000 total packages to U.S. military personnel serving around the world.
“I believe that Operation Shoebox NJ and Pro Custom Solar are both positive organizations that support our people and our environment. Whether it is improving someone’s day or improving someone’s home I want to be a part of the movement,” Frazier said.
About Pro Custom Solar
Pro Custom Solar is a privately held company located in Edison, New Jersey. They are committed to making solar energy affordable and providing immediate positive cash flow to their clients. Their team of professionals has an extensive wealth of knowledge in custom designing solar systems to meet the unique needs of each customer’s home. They will retrofit your system to your land or rooftop to exceed your aesthetic expectations while maximizing energy production. PCS takes care of the entire process including the design, permitting, and installation of the system to make the process fast and efficient.
Operation Shoebox New Jersey Reaches Milestone During Fifth Annual Christmas Packing Hosted by Hillsborough Rotary Club
HILLSBOROUGH –Operation Shoebox New Jersey reached a milestone during the V annual Hillsborough Rotary Christmas Packing recently – 100,000 care packages shipped to US troops deployed around the world.
More than 800 volunteers helped sort donations, assemble and pack 1,644 care packages during the event held at the Hillsborough YMCA.
The total number of boxes shipped now stands at 100,244.
The statewide organization, based in Hillsborough, celebrated its tenth anniversary earlier this year, and has been sending care packages overseas since February, 2005.
“I continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity and commitment of individuals and organizations that continue to support our efforts,” said Rod Hirsch, founder and executive director of OPSHBX NJ.
Hirsch noted that the organization has not had to spend any money on the contents of its boxes in nearly 11 years.
Large corporations like Johnson&Johnson, TD Bank, Investors’ Bank, the Somerset Patriots and smaller businesses, doctor’s offices, civic organizations, veterans’ organizations, schools, churches, senior citizen clubs, families and individuals have contributed to the success of the organization over the years.
Hirsch said OPSHBX NJ will continue to host packings and encourage volunteers to participate indefinitely.
“Operation Shoebox New Jersey will continue to support our men and women deployed overseas for as long as there is a need,” Hirsch said.
The United States military has assets in more than 150 countries.
Those interested in volunteering with OPSHBX NJ can visit the website at www.opshoeboxnj.org or call (908) 698-0333.
Financial support is also needed to help ensure the supply line of care packages overseas continues uninterrupted. OPSHBX NJ is a 501C3 non-profit corporation, and all donations are tax deductible.
Editor’s Note: Rod Hirsch is the managing editor of Tap into Hillsborough
Hillsborough Rotary Honors Operation Shoebox New Jersey Founder
The award was presented by Rotary President John Shockley and Rotarian Dan Marulli during the V annual Christmas Packing co-hosted by the Rotary and OPSHBX NJ at the Hillsborough YMCA.
The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International requires a local Rotary club to make a $1,000 donation to the Rotary’s international foundation before it can honor members of the local community.
The award reads: “Rod Hirsch is hereby named a Paul Harris Fellow in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.”
More than 800 people participated in the packing during which a milestone was reached by the volunteer organization, with care package number 100,000 assembled and packed during the event.
A total of 1,644 care packages were assembled during the event.
OPSHBX NJ, a non-profit, statewide organization with headquarters in Hillsborough, hosts 15-20 packing events during the year with schools, civic groups, congregations, veterans groups and small businesses and corporations.
The Hillsborough Rotary is a major supporter of OPSHBX NJ, donating $6,000 towards postage for the care packages.
“It is an honor to be named a Paul Harris Fellow,” Hirsch said. “The recognition comes from a group of dedicated, hard-working men and women that continues to put service above self, all for the good of the community.
“It is a privilege to work alongside them and to work on behalf of the men and women of the United States military,” he added.
Paul Percy Harris was a Chicago attorney. He founded Rotary International in 1905.
The Paul Harris Fellow recognition acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
It was established in 1957 to show appreciation for and encourage substantial contributions to what was then the Foundation’s only program, Rotary Foundation Fellowships for Advanced Study, the precursor to Ambassadorial Scholarships.
Rotarians have a tradition of supporting the Foundation by honoring others.
Many other notable figures have been named as Paul Harris Fellows, including U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, U.S. astronaut James Lovell, UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, and Jonas Salk.
The number of Paul Harris Fellows reached the one million mark in 2006.
New Jersey Heroes presents $15,000 grant to Operation Shoebox New Jersey
TRENTON, NJ (April 13) – Operation Shoebox New Jersey has received a $15,000 grant from the New Jersey Heroes Foundation for the third year in a row.
First Lady Mary Pat Christie announced over $120,000 in New Jersey Heroes grants to 18 organizations previously selected as New Jersey Heroes. The grants, which must be used within twelve months from the date of the award, will help the recipients to further enhance the mission of their respective organizations through new programs and services.
“I am proud our New Jersey Heroes Foundation was able to expand its grant program for 2015 to help these remarkable organizations continue to do good work in their respective communities throughout the Garden State,” said Mrs. Christie. “Our New Jersey Heroes recipients represent such a broad coalition of causes that touch many people in so many ways. With these grants, we’re providing these groups with an opportunity to make an even greater difference by giving them the ability to improve and expand their programs to further reach community members in need.”
Operation Shoebox New Jersey, a volunteer non-profit organization based in Somerset County, has shipped over 90,000 personal care packages to US troops deployed overseas since it was founded in February, 2005.
Rod Hirsch, founder and executive director, was selected as a New Jersey Hero in December, 2011. The First Lady and her staff visited Operation Shoebox New Jersey headquarters in Hillsborough to present the award to Hirsch and to help pack care packages.
“Our selection committee was very impressed with the number of care packages you were able to send, and in turn, soldiers you were able to reach in 2014,” said Casey Mahoney, executive director of New Jersey Heroes.
“Through your community contributions, you are helping to make New Jersey a better place for all our citizens,” she continued. You serve as an excellent example of what a New Jersey Hero is. You are a real inspiration to us and people throughout New Jersey. Keep the great work.”
Since 2013, the New Jersey Heroes Grant program has increased from $100,000 to $120,000 and from twelve recipients to eighteen. Overall, approximately $320,000 in grants has been awarded to twenty-four organizations over the past three years.
HILLSBOROUGH: Auctions raise $20,000 to aid Shoebox group
Operation Shoebox New Jersey hosted its annual wine reception, dinner and live auction on Saturday, Feb. 28, at Room with a View at Neshanic Valley Golf Course.
Former New York Yankee Cy Young Award winner and Somerset Patriots field manager emeritus Sparky Lyle helped the cause with autographed baseballs, a signed copy of his “The Bronx Zoo” book and a signed limited-edition giclee (fine art digital prints made on inkjet printers) from 1977, the year he won the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in major league baseball.Artist James Fiorentino donated four other limited-edition giclees, including the “Core Four” of New York Yankees teammates Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.New Jersey Adjutant Brig. General Michael L. Cunniff spent a few minutes emphasizing the importance of deployed U.S. soldiers receiving care packages from Operation Shoebox New Jersey.Joe Bodnar of Bodnar’s Auctions, two-time winner of the N.J. Society of Auctioneers’ (NJSSA) bid-calling championship, helped sell more than 70 items to the guests, helping to raise $20,000. Items were all donated by individuals and businesses, including retailers and restaurants, throughout central New Jersey.
MANVILLE: Rod Hirsch hatched his idea of goodies for troops in ’69
Operation Shoebox celebrates 10 years and 90,000 packages
DATE POSTED: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 5:28 PM EST
By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
When he was a high school lad pursuing his Eagle Scout award in 1969, teenager Rod Hirsch saw his fellow Scouts fulfilling their community service obligation by clearing trails and building park benches.
At the height of the Vietnam War, he had an unusual and incendiary notion for the day — to send “goodie bags” to soldiers in Vietnam. His arguments carried the day, and for a year or more he sought and organized donations and mailings abroad.
Little did he think that germ of an idea in Boy Scouting would turn into a fulltime preoccupation 40 years later for Mr. Hirsch, now 62.
Mr. Hirsch is the spirit and force behind Operation Shoebox New Jersey, an ever-expanding idea that brings hundreds of volunteers together several times a year to remind service members abroad that they are remembered and appreciated.
“We’re not a political organization. We’re a humanitarian one,” he said Tuesday. “We try to take care of our men and women overseas.”
On Saturday, working one of two annual packing events in the Manville VFW, volunteers assembled more than 1,000 six-to-eight-pound boxes of personal items and snacks to be shipped overseas.It was also an opportunity to stop and appreciate a decade of public service for Operation Shoebox. Mr. Hirsch was given two rarely presented medallions — one from Governor Chris Christie and one from the state’s top military officer — for his service.Brigadier General Michael L. Cunniff, who, as adjutant general, commands more than 9,000 soldiers and airmen of the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard, was on hand in uniform to make the presentation.The governor commended Mr. Hirsch by letter for positively answering the question of Martin Luther King Jr. — that “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is ‘what are you doing for others?’”As is normal with Shoebox packages, each soldier’s gift will have two boxes of Girl Scout cookies, three bags of loose candy, soaps and lotions, and sundry items like puzzle books and canned tuna.Every box will carry some handwritten notes from citizens or kids. This week, there were a lot of Valentines from the Hamilton School in Bridgewater, Mr. Hirsch said.Mr. Hirsch is the first to deflect the praise to the hundreds of volunteers who help organize events and continue to donate money and items and time to the effort.
For instance, Manville dentist Dr. Gary Small stood inside the rectangle of tables ready to refill bins from which a constantly moving line of young and old, big and small volunteers plucked items to fill zip-locking plastic bags with the variety of items.
Much of the candy was donated from “buy back” campaigns of Halloween candy by Dr. Small and other dentists.
“Sometimes I just stand back, look around and think ‘holy cow,’” Mr. Hirsch said. It’s overwhelming to think the idea I had would have such lasting power and impact so many lives on both sides of the ocean.”
Before Shoebox, Mr. Hirsch’s passion was as a career newspaperman for 35 years. He left the weekly Somerset Reporter, a successor to the Somerset Messenger–Gazette, in 2007. He still writes freelance and teaches journalism classes at Rider University.
One day, while putting together a feature page for the Reporter, he saw two stories about individuals’ efforts to pursue the same objective of gift packages — examples of caring, sharing and patriotism. It occurred to him that the weekly newspaper might be able to latch onto the idea as a marketing promotion.
His bosses approved, and in February 2005 he held an organization meeting. Steve Kalafer, a major auto sales businessman in Hunterdon and a part owner of the Somerset Patriots, stepped forward with kind words about Mr. Hirsch and a $5,000 check as seed money.
“When he did that, I knew this was going to work,” said Mr. Hirsch.
Today, in addition to earning a living, Mr. Hirsch’s mind is a constant whirlwind. He woos corporate donations in one moment, arranges packing hall sites in the next and checks in with volunteers in a third. He figures out when he can fill his small truck with 24 boxes and take them from Operation Shoebox’s base in the Veterans Industrial Park in northern Hillsborough to the Manville post office for mailing.
Thank you from Southwest Asia
Along with the rest of the crew of USCGC MAUI, we would like to extend our warmest thank you to everyone who was involved in sending us so many care packages! On a year-long deployment, your packages, thoughts, and support are most heartily welcomed. The candy and cookies are always a morale booster, and in an area with high winds, sand, and of course, the salty seas, the body wash and moisturizer all went very quickly.
We hope everyone is safe and healthy back at home, making preparations for Halloween! It is an honor and privilege to serve.
Fair Winds and Following Seas,
LTJG Jamie Kim
USCGC Maui (WPB-1304)
Patrol Forces Southwest Asia