WIn fulfillment of Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen’s “UCHERO” initiative assisting Veterans, collections are being taken up at five different County Government locations for Backpacks for Life, a New Jersey-based non-profit that assists Veterans in need, and the public is welcome to make a donation.
“There are many Veterans out there who are having trouble making ends meet and need our assistance,” said Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen. “We hope this collection helps in some small way to help make things better.”
Brett D’Alessandro, the founder of the New Jersey-based Backpacks for Life, thanked the County for setting up the donation effort.
“People tend to overlook homeless Veterans and stigmatize them and all homeless in general,” D’Alessandro said. “I created this organization to help our Veterans. At one point in my life, I needed help too, and I am living proof that a little bit of help can go a long way in turning a life around.”
D’Alessandro, a United States Marine Corps Sergeant and New Jersey native, founded Backpacks for Life after coming home from service in Afghanistan, and seeing a homeless man holding a sign that said “Vietnam Veteran.”
“I couldn’t help but think of that man for the rest of the day,” he said. Later that afternoon, D’Alessandro returned after filling his backpack from his tour with warming layers, socks and t-shirts. He went back to find the man and gave him the backpack. The next morning on his way into work, D’Alessandro saw the man, but this time with a small child wearing the backpack proudly.
“I stopped to say hello and the homeless man explained to me that his wife had become very sick and the warming layers were helping her tremendously. It was in this moment that I knew I wanted to help others get back on their feet and give them a second chance at life,” D’Alessandro said.
Collection bins/boxes are at the following County Government locations and accessible during normal business hours:
*Administration Building, 10 Elizabethtown Plaza, Elizabeth—first floor elevator area. ( 9 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F)
*Prosecutor’s Office, 32 Rahway Avenue, Elizabeth— first floor lobby. (9 a.m.-5 p.m., M-F)
*County Courthouse—alley entry (before cafeteria, M-F, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).
*County Clerk’s Office, 300 North Avenue East, Westfield—Office area (M,W,F 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Tues, Thurs 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-1 p.m.)
*County Police 300 North Avenue East, (24 HOUR COLLECTION SITE)—Lobby area.
The following items below are being requested as donations:
- Toothbrushes & Toothpaste
- Baby Wipes
- Soap Bars/Body Wash
- Hand Sanitizer
- Body Powder
- Pocket Tissues
- Socks, Hats & Gloves
- Travel Size First Aid Kit
Backpacks For Life is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that aims to provide veterans, those who are homeless or who cannot provide for themselves and their families, with the basic life necessities. They’re building backpacks full of daily essentials and other resources to help get homeless veterans back on their feet.
With each backpack, they aim to not only provide homeless veterans with the things they need for daily living but also, give them hope and resources for the future.
Backpacks For Life was founded by Verona resident and USMC Sgt. Brett D’Alessandro.