Boxes for Soldiers Holiday Care Package Drive begins this Saturday, Nov. 11


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  • Photo by Roger Gavan From left, Rob Bowen, Albert Wisner Library Director Rosemary Cooper and Kendall Kless.



— Beginning Veterans Day, Nov. 11 and ending on Friday, Nov. 24, residents are asked to help send some holiday joy to members of the military serving overseas.

Food, hygiene and other products not always available at Post or Base Exchanges are the most needed items that can be dropped off at various locations throughout Orange County, including the Albert Wisner Library in Warwick.

Pay it forwardThe idea for a care package drive began in 2014 during the funeral of Kevin Kless, a recent Temple University graduate at that time and victim of a brutal attack in Philadelphia.

"A few months after the funeral," said his mother, Kendall Kless, "I got a letter in the mail from the mom of one of Kevin's Temple friends. She was writing on her son Jarrett's behalf. He was sorry that he had not been able to attend the funeral because he was serving in Afghanistan."

The woman's son had also learned of the scholarship fund that had been established in Kevin Kless' name, and had instructed his mom to send a donation on his behalf of $500.

"I couldn't believe it," said Kless. "Jarrett took the time, in the middle of a war, to make sure we knew how he felt about Kevin and he made a very generous donation in Kevin's memory. I was, and still am, so very moved and grateful."

Kless then decided she wanted to pay it forward and came up with the idea of a care package drive.

With the assistance of her employer, a developer, and donations from friends, co-workers, sub-contractors and people living in the homes the company had built, they shipped almost 100 boxes out in early December 2012 and continued the project until 2014. Kless was no longer working for the firm in 2015 and 2016.

'Suits for Soldiers'However, in late fall 2016, she saw an ad for "Suits For Soldiers" with contact information.

The contact, Rob Bowen, an insurance agent in Chester, is a Navy veteran who does volunteer work.

At that time he was soliciting donations of gently used professional wear for veterans returning to the workplace.

"I called to ask some questions," said Kless, "and said I'd be there at a certain time to drop off Kevin's clothes. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the girl who answered the phone knew Kevin and told Rob the story of what had happened. I cried as I handed over numerous suit jackets, slacks, shirts and other clothes that Kevin had purchased or received as Christmas gifts only weeks before his death."

'So, here we are'Kless told Bowen the story about the care package drives for soldiers and soon afterwards he said he would like to partner in a care package drive.

"So, here we are," said Kless, "trying to do our part to make the world a better place. To me, the package drive is a simple act. It's a good way to honor Kev, I think."

For additional information, call 610-5700.

- Roger Gavan

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