Written by Cynthia Paulis, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 20 September 2013 00:00
More than 100 people including local politicians attended Adopt-a-Battalion’s first annual Support our Troops Dinner held at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Massapequa Park last week.
The brainchild of Jack and Pat Parker, whose son was a marine stationed in Iraq at the time, Adopt-a-Battalion is a 100-percent volunteer-based organization started in 2004.
Jack Parker said the idea for the organization came after he received an email from his son.
“He talked about the kids over there not getting any boxes or goodie bags, so we started something over here,” he said.
The 501c3 organization has grown exponentially, shipping more than 40 tons of goods valued at approximately $420,000 and sending more than 20,000 letters and cards from school children since its inception.
Richard Olson, a Vietnam veteran, said the organization’s importance lies in its willingness to support thousands of service men and women with items most people take for granted.
“We collect personal items like food, snacks, lotions, clothing, winter clothing, sun block and things that the government doesn’t provide the troops,” he said. “We ship them over on a weekly basis. Right now we are supporting 10 battalions. That’s 7,000 men and women. The boxes are packed every Saturday by volunteers.”
One dedicated volunteer is 13-year-old Christian Licato, who has come every Saturday from Bellmore for a year to help out. The organization was so impressed with his dedication that it saw fit to honor him with an award named after a fellow member who recently died.
Licato admits that he is usually the only one his age helping out, but said his sacrifices are nothing compared to what the troops go through.
“To help out the troops, you can’t get a better feeling knowing that you are helping someone out,” he said. “When you see the pictures on the walls and the presentation, that’s their reaction, it’s just a good feeling inside.”
Massapequa Park Mayor Pravato had high praise for the Adopt-a-Batallion,
“This is a great organization that helps take care of the troops abroad and also when the troops come home, they help them out to finds jobs, work, they help them out financially,” he said. “I am happy to support them anyway I can.”
Legislator Michael Venditto echoed the mayor’s sentiments and said those on the homefront need to do their part in order for the country’s military outposts to do their job.
“If you are going to achieve military victory for the United States of America there are two components that you need to reach; our troops overseas being brave and valiant on a daily basis giving their time so we can enjoy our time on the homeland,” he said. “But the second component is why we gather here tonight. We have to make sure that we show the proper morale, support and energy and motivation that our troops need to achieve that victory.”
Councilman Joe Pinto remembers when Jack Parker came to the board with his idea.
“I remember when we thought this was a great idea and look at what it has become today,” he said. “They have raised about $70,000 to get those packages out and this is all volunteer and community work. They are here every Saturday morning packing those boxes. It is a great accomplishment for the community and for what they have done for these service men and women.”
Adopt-a-Battalion needs volunteers to help pack boxes and it also need items including gloves, socks, t-shirts and personal-sized toiletries including shaving cream, hand and body lotion, shampoo, sunblock, bath soap, lip balm and deodorants. Snacks for the troops are welcome as well, including beef jerky, hard candy, gum and other ready-to-eat nonperishables.
Drop these items off at the Knights of Columbus Hall collection site at 2 Eastgate Rd. in Massapequa on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Mondays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.