LINWOOD — Inside the gym at Mainland Regional High School, the Mustangs wrestling team was grappling for victories on the mat. Outside the school, under a tent on the front lawn, volunteers put boxes of food together for veterans who are wrestling with some of life’s most daunting problems, such as homelessness, unemployment and mental illness.

Calvin Donohue, a sophomore from Northfield, is a member of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps with an eye on following in his grandfather’s footsteps and attending a military academy. He also has a strong sense of obligation to do more to help veterans. As a member of the Mainland Support Our Troops Club, Donohue spoke with adviser Jo Carney and said he would like to organize a food drive to help homeless veterans and those living in transitional housing.

Carney said a few phone calls later they had plans in the works to partner with TouchNJ food pantry, Atlantic City Electric and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. People donated food and personal items and the results were impressive. Veterans Affairs identified veterans in need in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.

Starting Friday and finishing up Saturday, the members of the Support Our Troops Club along with members of the Cadet Corps, the Civil Air Patrol and Mainland Key Club volunteers packed 150 boxes with enough food for at least 10 meals, personal care items, socks and loaves of bread. The VA Outreach Team was on hand to help veterans with whatever struggles they are facing, from finding housing to struggling with thoughts of suicide. Hope One Atlantic County was also in place to help any veterans battling addiction.

The tent set up on the front lawn at Mainland was to serve as a pick-up location for veterans, but when the rain and wind really kicked up Saturday morning, the decision was made to deliver the food to the veterans who needed it most. The Sea Cadets and Civil Air Patrol members started lugging boxes to cars available.

In military fashion, they mapped out delivery routes and within an hour of making the decision to take the boxes to the veterans, they were loaded up and pulling out of the horseshoe in front of Mainland and heading out to complete their mission.

For more information about the Veterans Affairs Outreach Team contact Pat Carney at 302-358-9736. To learn more about the Mainland Support Our Troops Club, contact Jo Carney at jcarney@mainlandregional.net.

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