LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — There are still some preparations to be done, but homeless Korean War veteran John Karpinski said very soon he’ll be going to his family in France.
“If I felt any better, I don’t think I could stand,” said the 81-year-old Karpinski, who has been living in a dilapidated shed and small patch of land across from the Acme Market on Route 9 in Little Egg Harbor. Last week, one of three winning tickets in a $448.4 million Powerball drawing was sold at the store.
On Monday afternoon, Karpinski was in good spirits as he sang in English and French while the man who has tried to help him for the last several months drove him around Ocean County, collecting documents necessary to obtain his passport.
“Look what they done to my song, ma, look what they done to my song, ma,” Karpinski sang. “The only thing I could do half right and now it's turning out. Ils ont change ma chanson, ma. Ils ont change ma chanson.”
About three months ago, John Mauser and Karpinski struck up a fragile friendship when Mauser’s family found Karpinski walking with his cane and shopping cart in Little Egg Harbor Township.
“Since then, I’ve been on a quest to reunite him with his family in France. That’s where his daughter and his son are, and that’s where he wants to go,” Mauser said.
Mauser said that on Monday afternoon Karpinski picked up his military discharge and background paperwork from the satellite office of the Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau in Stafford Township. Karpinski also obtained paperwork from the Ocean County Board of Social Services for his passport, Mauser said.
Karpinski has said he was robbed and his identification stolen, along with his passport. As of Monday, he has enough documentation to get his birth certificate, so he is able to replace his passport, Mauser said.
The next hurdle will be getting Karpinski to Newark to get his birth certificate. To do that, Mauser, who is a business owner, needs help. Mauser said he is working with the Little Egg Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars Lodge 316 to assist Karpinski.
Mauser is also looking to collect enough money to place Karpinski in a hotel so he does not have to stay outside. Mauser has set up a Facebook page to solicit help.
“There’s still some work to do, but it’s amazing with the right help and the right people how fast it can be done. In one day I was able to get more done than I have been able to in three months,” Mauser said Monday.
Since the Press of Atlantic City reported last week that Karpinski was homeless, others have stepped up to help. After reading his story, posted by a friend on her Facebook page, Gina Cavallo, director of the Paying It Forward Foundation of West Orange, Essex County, said she immediately knew she was going to help.
Last week, Cavallo started collecting donations online to help Karpinski, she said. Cavallo, a certified volunteer advocate with the state Office of the Institutionalized Elderly, took a disaster course with the American Red Cross and was immediately assigned to assist displaced homeowners at emergency shelters. Through storm-recovery work, the foundation was born and the help continued.
The Paying It Forward Foundation assists residents affected by Hurricane Sandy get their lives back together and restore their homes — but there is always room to help people such as Karpinksi, Cavallo said.
Although the foundation is a more than two-hour drive north for Karpinski in Little Egg Harbor Township, its pledge to help has no boundaries, she said.
“It wasn’t really for me about picking John so much that my organization is open to helping anybody and everybody, whether it’s disaster-related or not. One of my missions is focusing on veterans, the elderly, people with special needs and disabled people.
“To be quite honest with you, I didn’t even finish reading the article and I said I’m onboard. I made a few contacts and put it out there that we are collecting donations, and whatever comes in, I am giving it to him, no questions asked,” she said.
Contact Donna Weaver:
@DonnaKWeaver on Twitter