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"We at the 877th Expeditionary Prime Beef Squadron - Detachment West Shindand AB, Afghanistan thank you for your support! The packages you send make our lives better and inspire us to do better. "

SSGT Bernard Cortes, USAF


US Army Blackhawk lands in Manville to support Operation Shoebox NJ

blackhawk A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter will circle and land at Central Jersey Regional Airport in Manville Saturday, Oct. 1 to help Operation Shoebox New Jersey launch a two-month effort to collect supplies for shipment to US troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Hillsborough Rotary Club is hosting the “kid-friendly” event, which will also include displays by the U.S. Army, Civil Air Patrol and other organizations.

The Blackhawk is scheduled to land at 10 a.m. and will take off at 1 p.m.

The Blackhawk, the workhorse of the US military, is attached to the New Jersey National Guard and will fly in from its base at Mercer County Airport, according to its pilot, CWO3 Tony Gianno, a Flemington resident.

Visitors will be able to step inside the helicopter and sit at the controls in the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seat.

Photographs are encouraged, according to Anthony Franchini, president of the Hillsborough Rotary Club.

“Who doesn’t get excited by the approach of a helicopter as it circles and hovers. It’s not every day you’re able to climb aboard and slide in behind the controls and check out the dials and gauges where the pilot sits,” Franchini said. “We’re hoping that moms and dads bring their cameras and take lots of pictures.”

There is no admission charge. The Rotary is asking that visitors please bring donations suitable to be sent overseas in care packages by Operation Shoebox New Jersey. Needed items include lip balm, sun block, insect repellent, moist wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, white crew socks, small pop-top cans of tuna and fruit, beef jerky and gum. Financial donations will also be accepted.

Members of the Hillsborough Rotary will assist Operation Shoebox New Jersey during the two-month collection and will host a community-wide packing event at Hillsborough Elementary School Saturday, Dec. 3, Volunteers are invited to help pack the donated supplies for shipment overseas in time for Christmas.

“Members of the Hillsborough Rotary have been helping Operation Shoebox New Jersey for the past several years, but this time they’ve really outdone themselves,” said Rod Hirsch, founder and director of the volunteer organization. “We are grateful to the Rotary, Warrant Officer Gianno and the New Jersey National Guard for helping Operation Shoebox New Jersey kick off this collection drive.”

Both Gianno and his co-pilot CWO4 Mike Polyak have served tours of duty in Iraq; Giannno received care packages from Operation Shoebox New Jersey during his deployment.

“What you guys do is just absolutely phenomenal,” Gianno said. “It just means so much to everyone that receives one of those packages when they’re over there.”

Thousands of volunteers have helped collect donations, write letters, raise funds and pack 48,000 boxes since 2005 when the organization was founded.  

Further information is available by contacting Operation Shoebox New Jersey at (908) 698-0333 and the website at www.opshoeboxnj.org.

Donations can be dropped off at Operation Shoebox New Jersey headquarters, located in Veterans Industrial Park, 152 Route 206 South, Hillsborough, Building 1.

Financial support is also needed to underwrite the expense of shipping the packages overseas. Operation Shoebox New Jersey is a non-profit 501C3 corporation. All donations are tax deductible.

September 14, 2011


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