The spirit of giving and generosity is alive and well in the New Jersey National Guard.
It began four years ago when Maj. Mark Majkowski picked up a child's name at a credit union's Christmas tree. He then found that the Children's Home Society of New Jersey was looking for individuals to sponsor children's Christmas presents. The West Trenton based 1- 150th Aviation Battalion sponsored a child in 1996. For the next three years the number of children being sponsored grew to 35.
In 2000 that all changed.
"I sent out a message on RCAS (Reserve Component Automation System) asking for people to join us in supporting these children," said toy drive coordinator Staff Sgt. Arthur Joseph Valenzuela-Bradley II; Attack Helicopter Technical Inspector, 1-150th Aviation Battalion. RCAS is the email system used by the New Jersey National Guard. The response was overwhelming, 130 commitments came in from all over the state.
"Arthur took it to a new level when he contacted the Society," stated Maj. Majkowski. "Now with the email system, technology is working in his favor."
Staff Sgt. Valenzuela-Bradley got a list of Mercer-Trenton area children's first names along with their Christmas wish list from the Society. The kids, whose ages ranged from newborns to 17 year-olds, asked for such items as clothing, art supplies, stuffed toys, to books and educational toys. From this, he put together a spreadsheet listing the children's ages and what they wanted. He then posted the list on the RCAS system and emailed everyone on the network asking for donations. The drive began in November and ended December 18.
Responses came in from the 1-150th Aviation Battalion in West Trenton, 2-102nd Armor units in Hacketstown, Port Murray and in Somerset; the 50th Main Support Battalion in West Orange, the 119th Corps Support Battalion in Lawrenceville, 108th Air Refueling Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, the Training and Training Technology Battle Lab at Fort Dix, the 57th Troop Command at Atlantic City, Company B of the 1-126th Aviation at Picatinny Arsenal, the 2-113th Infantry at Riverdale, and the 254th Regiment in Sea Girt to name just some of the units that responded to the call. Valenzuela set up drop-off points at Fort Dix, Picatinny Arsenal, West Orange, West Trenton, and Woodbury.
With the aid of Pfc. James Malwitz and a New Jersey Army National Guard 5-ton truck, Staff Sgt. Valenzuela picked up the donated items and delivered them to the Society's headquarters in Trenton. "It was a very thoughtful and caring way to help the needy children and families in the community during the holidays," stated Florence Paric, Director of Administrative Services of the Children's Home Society of New Jersey. "It was one of the largest donations made this year."
In the end, 130 needy children were able to look under their Christmas trees and see that Santa Claus, with the help the of the New Jersey National Guard, had come through for them.