USM WAYS Committee chairman Dick Lynch, left, joins fellow volunteers Anita Drangle, Marie DeSordi, Marty Drangle, Anna Reuther and Ted DeSordi in packing boxes of snacks and personal care items for service members overseas in a home in the adult community The Renaissance in Manchester Township.
The support of military members serving overseas in harm's way goes well beyond the efforts of the veterans' service organizations. One such group in Manchester Township is pushing towards 1300 boxes of snacks and personal care items reaching the troops on the frontlines.
It was back in 2004 when the members of the Essex- Bergen Club of The Renaissance adult community created the USM WAYS Committee. The acronym which stands for "United States Military We Appreciate Your Service" has a special meaning to the volunteers, many who never wore a uniform. All their lives had been touched from the conflicts of their lifetimes, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the current war on terrorism.
"It is all about the people making the sacrifice for us," said Dick Lynch, chairman of the USM WAYS Committee.
Every Wednesday, committee members are at the community's clubhouse to accept donations, from moist wipes and foot powders to cookies and chewing gum.
Every three months, one home becomes packing and shipping central as half dozen or more volunteers grab empty boxes that line the living room wall.
The retirees, teamed in pairs, take over the dining room table carefully following the layout instructions, in order to use every inch of a 12 x 12 x 6 Priority Mail box. Once packed the box is handed over to the other volunteers to be sealed, labeled and then stacked for shipping.
The packing operation has out grown the dining room according to Lynch. "Our procedure for processing is now done on an assembly line approach. We all gather in the Renaissance ballroom and get the job done."
In December 2009, the group shipped its 1,000th package and is up to 1,289 boxes of cheer leaving Ocean County for far off places.
Lynch, a Korean War veteran, shares with the group, letters and e-mails he receives from the service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. The notes of thanks share a common theme of appreciation for being remembered.
"It means a lot to all of us to know that great Americans like you support our efforts in Afghanistan. In the spirit of sharing, I distributed the contents of the package that you sent to some of our Soldiers serving in our smaller outposts without a lot of creature comforts," wrote Maj. Ed Brady, 4th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, in an email in March of this year.
Lynch uses the correspondence to keep the donations coming in, whether it is personal care items, food or more importantly cash to pay for the mailing costs and average $37 dollars worth of items that goes in every box.
The residents of The Renaissance community have been the biggest donors along with groups outside the gates of the adult community such as the Association of the United States Army chapter at Fort Monmouth. The Doughboy Chapter of the Warrant Officers Association located on Fort Dix is active in providing money and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tom Comyack and retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Albert Curving providing contact names of those deployed.
Any person or group interested in helping the USM WAYS Committee can contact Lynch at 732-657-6737.