OCEAN CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I've always had a soft spot for veterans," said Kathryn Speer. "They're like a national treasure and they need to be appreciated today and every day."
Speer is the housing administrator at United Methodist Communities at Wesley by the Bay. There, the community has engaged in fundraising and volunteerism around Thanksgiving and Christmas. This inspired Speer to think up their latest initiative: giving valentines to veterans.
"They may not realize how much they're loved, but you just say the word, "Vet," and everybody wants to be a part of something good to show our appreciation," she said.
That word echoed throughout Ocean City and the surrounding communities, prompting high school students and local businesses to make donations. Candy, cookies, toiletries, and clothing are just some of the items piled high in stacks of boxes. The mission became known as "Have a Heart for Veterans."
"It's grown so much that we're not going to even be able to use cars," said Speer, "We have to use the bus to take everything down to the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland."
The New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland was chosen for its broad base of residents.
"The veterans home here serves 300 veterans," said Ray Morrison, a Senior Therapy Program Assistant there. "Not one of those is ever forgotten."
Morrison and his team were already looking to make the holiday special for the veteran residents. This donation made it much sweeter.
"I just want to thank everybody in the Ocean City community that came together to support our local veterans," he said. "It's really going to touch their hearts."
Kathryn Speer was thankful that residents of her own community volunteered to make it possible.
"They really are the machine," she said. "They're just friendly neighbors who are good people. Whenever they see somebody that needs help, they always step up to the plate."
Following the massive success, the team plans to make valentines for veterans an annual effort.
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