The Cape May County Veterans Bureau is seeking donations to purchase items for hospitalized and institutionalized veterans in need as part of its annual Veterans Valentine program.

The money will be used to purchase personal items not covered by insurance. According to a press release, the items will be given to the veterans on the annual visits to the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland and Veterans Haven South in Ancora, scheduled for Wednesday Feb. 14.

Donations will be accepted until Feb. 12.

Started in 1984, the Veterans Valentine Program focuses on helping veterans in need with a twofold purpose: to show concern for their well-being and to give them the respect they earned for their service to the country, Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton said.

A group of veterans and volunteers from Cape May County make the trip each year to ensure their colleagues in arms have what they need and know there are many people who care, the release stated.

“The Veterans Bureau group is a team of wonderful individuals who have been visiting the Vineland Memorial Home for 33 years," said Thornton, who is a veteran and the liaison to the Veterans Bureau.

The group started visiting Veterans Haven South a few years ago, he added.

"It is heartwarming to see the reaction from the veterans — some that are bedridden and others who for many reason don’t receive a lot of visitors," Thornton said.

"They truly appreciate the generosity and work being done on their behalf. Our veterans are very important to me and to all who work throughout the year for veteran causes.Raising money and organizing this trip is part of the ongoing efforts to recognize and honor these men and women."

The visits are also an opportunity to talk to veterans and listen to their stories, which serve as a reminder of the sacrifice they have made for their country, he said.

"These men and women are true heroes. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and this is one small way to let them know they are in our hearts and minds.”

Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson, a retired Brigadeer general,  said the donations will be used to purchase toiletries and personal items for veterans hospitalized in the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, and a portion will be used for the reintegration training of veterans at Haven South in Winslow Township.

"Last year our goal was to raise $2,500 for each location. We would like to match that for 2018. The veterans are extremely grateful, and the funds go a long way in providing them with much needed assistance,” he said.

Checks can be made payable to VFW District 17 Valentine Account and mailed to Cape May County Veterans Bureau, 4005 Route 9 South, Rio Grande, NJ 08242-1911.

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