South Jersey Army Navy shop sends uniforms to Ukraine

SWEDESBORO, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "A lot of Army and Navy stores in the area were disappearing and the old mom and pop stores were going away because of the internet business," said Joe Musumeci.

Musumeci decided to open Grandpops Army Navy in 2010. The store was inspired by his father, the titular "Grandpop," who is a U.S. Army veteran.

The Swedesboro shop has welcomed all ages throughout the years, including veterans who fought in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. Modeled after stores from the mid-1900s, it sells both old and modern military items.

"And then we had a visit from two women," said Musumeci. "And they came in and were buying uniforms for citizens in Ukraine."

Victoria Veretchak and Marta Makar both hail from a town in western Ukraine. They attended the same school but did not know each other. Both immigrated to the United States, where their mothers met at the same church. Thus, they became friends.

"The first thing was, when we heard the news about the war, my family and all my friends gathered everything they could find in the house and sent it immediately to Ukraine," said Makar.

Then, the dynamic duo searched throughout the Pennsylvania area for a military shop where they could purchase uniforms in bulk. They arrived in Swedesboro at Grandpops Army Navy, which made it easy and affordable for them.

Both women are on a mission to directly aid their friends and relatives still living and fighting in their hometown. They use most of the money earned from their jobs to fund the grassroots effort.

"They said that we need boots, we need uniforms," said Veretchak. "It gets burned or it gets ripped. They have nowhere to wash it."

That's where Musumeci had the idea to get his community involved in the effort. Using outdoor signage and social media, he encouraged customers to purchase packages of military uniforms to contribute to Veretchak and Makar's cause.

Customers have the choice to include a note inside the shirt written in English & Ukrainian encouraging the soldiers to write back to them.

18-year-old Kelsey Williams and his mom were some of the roughly 30 "Grandpop's Heroes" who have supported the cause so far.

"It's what I believe in. I believe in action," said Williams. "We actually spent over $200 on uniforms. I have another $100 to spend here today."

Musumeci says this effort is one of the reasons why a brick and mortar shop can be an important pillar of the community.

"Without having a store that's in the community like this, this would have never transpired," he said. "We're one of the remaining few and we don't plan on leaving anytime soon."

To learn more about Grandpops Army Navy and their effort to support Ukraine, visit their website.

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