By MADDY VITALE
Veterans will be receiving some extra special treats for Valentine’s Day thanks to United Methodist Communities, some Ocean City organizations, volunteers, local businesses and even the high school girls basketball team.
The United Methodist Communities is hosting the “Have a Heart for Veterans Valentine’s Day 2023 Campaign” to show appreciation for those who have served.
Gift bags filled with goodies such as cookies, candies and popcorn will be delivered to The Memorial Veterans Home in Vineland and Meadowview Veterans in Northfield in time for Valentine’s Day.
And it is only possible because of the generosity of so many in the community, UMC Housing Administrator Kathy Speer of Ocean City’s Wesley by the Bay said in a statement.
“Between the two facilities it is a huge undertaking of 325 beds. We can use all the help we can get. If you could help us get the word out for donations, or make a donation that is listed, it will be greatly appreciated,” Speer said in her appeal to the public for the worthy cause.
This is the second year for the campaign and Speer said she hopes it will continue to grow.
“We have had a lot of support for it, and we have been so blessed. It is something everyone wants to do. It is such a good thing,” Speer said in an interview Friday.
“The veterans love it,” she continued. “I am hoping this year we will be able to go in and shake a few hands and smile and meet the veterans. I am sure it means something to them. It is an extra appreciation to them. This truly is our pleasure to do this.”
Volunteers at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Ocean City were busy Wednesday assembling packages for the veterans.
Kookie Kids is a non-profit organization created by Katie Bowman about eight years ago that brings together volunteers to bake for good causes. Katie’s mother, Jennifer Bowman, an active member of St. Peter’s Church, is the adult leader of the group.
Bowman, along with young adults from Heritage Homestead Day Center, a daycare program in Marmora for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, put together some gift bags that included popcorn, taffy and cookies.
“Many hands make light work. Kookie Kids is happy to be baking again for this wonderful Veterans Valentine’s Day project,” Bowman said. ” I love when the community and businesses come together for projects like this.”
The packages will also include Valentine’s Day cards created Friday night by members of the Ocean City High School girls basketball team. The cards will be sent along with the bags for the veterans, Bowman noted.
“We wish to thank our friends from Heritage Homestead for putting stickers on these bags,” she said. “The staff at Wesley by the Bay is filling up 325 bags to be given out on Valentine’s Day to veterans in Vineland and Northfield nursing homes.”
Kathy Mills, director and CEO of Heritage Homestead Day Center, said the young adults were happy to be a part of such a positive event to help spread some cheer.
“They love doing anything that makes them feel meaningful and they are putting a smile on someone’s face,” Mills said. “They also gain self-confidence from it. It makes them happy to help other people.”
Heritage Homestead Day Center helps Kookie Kids with certain tasks, from baking cookies to assembling the packaging several times a year.
“We are thrilled to be a part of anything in the community,” Mills said, noting that the young adults are from Cape and Atlantic counties with about six from Ocean City. “We are excited to be a part of the community.”
Items may be dropped off at various locations through Feb. 9.
Donations of individually wrapped items and Valentine’s Day cards may be dropped off at St. Peter’s Methodist Church located at Eighth Street and Central Avenue, The Shores at 2201 Bay Avenue or Wesley by the Bay at 2401 Bay Avenue.
Items can be:
- Wrapped Valentine heart candy boxes or bagged candy that is sealed.
- Individual packs of crackers, cookies, Tastykakes, trail mix, Little Debbie Cakes.
- Individual packs of potato chips, pretzels, cheese curls.
- Any items that are red such as socks or gloves, T-shirts of any size, hats, sweatshirts.
- A gift card from any area restaurant, Wawa, Walmart, Dunkin Donuts, etc.