For students in Deer Park High School’s chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions, their commitment to helping local veterans goes beyond Veterans Day and has become a year-round endeavor, exemplified by a recent donation of special holiday gift packages for homeless vets in Yaphank.
SADD’s veterans project began four years ago when the club presented an intergenerational TV show trivia contest for veterans at the Northport VA Medical Center, followed by a Victorian tea for the center’s female veterans complete with tea sandwiches, tea trivia and tea etiquette.
Last June, the club provided a picnic for homeless veterans at the Veterans Place in Yaphank, a former motel that has been converted to a shelter by Suffolk County United Veterans.
“Our members have a special place in their hearts for these vets,” said the club’s adviser, Janet Werner-Kempski. “We have even ‘adopted’ a special vet who underwent successful cancer surgery and is doing well.”
Recently, a call was placed to the Veterans Place to find out what the vets’ needs were, and the SADD students responded by donating the necessary hats, gloves and scarves, supplemented by a surprise donation from the Girls' Youth Group at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Kings Park and an additional donation of American flags by a friend of Werner-Kempski. SADD club members decorated the gift bags, wrapped gifts and placed a flag in each bag, readying them for delivery to the veterans.
“This is very important to us,” said Brian Doscher, a member of Deer Park’s SADD chapter. “It’s the best way for SADD to express our appreciation for these veterans.”
“The SADD club really is an amazing group,” said Werner-Kempski. “They are like Santa's elves. They come in, work quickly and disappear. It is a pleasure to work with them and gratifying to know that they will become good citizens of our world.”
The club next plans to host a Southern-style barbecue for the veterans in June 2014.
Info/photo courtesy of Greg Fasolino/Syntax