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Local Collection For Armed Services Will Go Far



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Newtown Bee readers last month were invited to drop off donations, items to be sent to servicemen and women currently deployed, in honor of the Memorial Day holiday. The Bee began running the annual collection in 2011, with the intent of having anything dropped off at its Church Hill Road office then provided to the VFW so that everything could then be sent off to Newtown residents serving overseas.

This year, however, there was a catch: the local VFW post is not currently following any Newtown residents, which was not realized until midway through the collection period last month. VFW Post 308 Chaplain Donna Monteleone Randle said this week the problem was not insurmountable.

“With the best of intentions, everyone thought someone must have still been overseas,” she said. “But rotations can be anywhere from three to nine months to a year, and then they change.

“We just don’t have anyone we know of from Newtown deployed right now,” she added.

Nevertheless, Ms Monteleone Randle was able to find two leads for the boxes and bags that were dropped off at The Bee’s office between May 15 and May 29. Her first contact was with Art Fredericks, Connecticut National Guard (CNG) command sergeant major. Through him, Ms Monteleone Randle was introduced — via e-mail — to Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Paul Diorio, who is currently with a group from the CNG in Kabul, Afghanistan.

CSM Diorio and his group have been in Kabul for seven weeks.

“Time is flying by,” CSM Diorio wrote in part to Ms Monteleone Randle. “This is a very small base and sometimes you feel like you’re on an island.”

Some of the sunblock, fruit snacks, wet wipes, tissues, snack and meal bars, and other items that were dropped off at The Bee in recent weeks will therefore be heading to Kabul.

Additional items may be catching up with Chaplain David Daigle, a US Navy chaplain and friend of Monsignor Robert Weiss, the senior pastor of St Rose of Lima Church. The recipient in previous years of Valentines For Troops care packages sent from Newtown, Father Daigle may soon receive more of the items from the recent Memorial Day collection. This year’s collection also included personal hygiene items, books and magazines, DVDs, fruit snacks, and much more.

“Aircraft carriers have lots of people on them,” Ms Monteleone Randle said. “We can send lots of stuff to them.”

While tracking down the Navy chaplain is a small challenge, Ms Monteleone Randle remains confident all donations will find their way into the hands of Connecticut residents currently serving. Next week a group from Newtown will be attending the state VFW convention, she said. The four-day event in Rocky Hill begins June 11.

“They’ll talk to some people there to see if there is anyone else who is serving,” she said. “We’re not totally exhausted.”

Residents responded last month to The Newtown Bee’s request for donations to send to local troops who are stationed overseas. While VFW Post 308 does not know of anyone currently deployed, members have offered leads for at least two Connecticut-based groups who will receive some of the items dropped off at The Bee’s office in the days leading to Memorial Day.
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