Home • Burlington County News ‘A taste of home’

‘A taste of home’

Annual Fill-A-Bus event collects donated items for troops overseas

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Marijean Andl of Operation One Nation presents a $35,571 check to December Giberson-Shover, owner of the Rose In December Florist, at the Fill-A-Bus event.

Stokes Road in Medford was busy on the morning of Sunday, April 7, as hundreds of volunteers gathered in the Rose In December floral shop’s parking lot and filled buses with care packages for U.S. troops overseas.

“It is so important for us to support our troops,” said Tom McElwee, an Operation Yellow Ribbon (OYR) volunteer who served in the Navy from 1964 to 1968. “It was something this country did not do during the Vietnam War.”

“This is our sixth year,” said December Giberson-Shover, owner of the shop, who was busy coordinating the Fill-A-Bus event. “We collect donations year round.”

They include trail mix, granola, protein bars, hot sauce, Tastykakes and Girl Scout cookies, along with shampoo, soap, deodorant and feminine hygiene products. The care boxes are sent to troops all around the world, with financial donations covering shipping costs.

“My son Zachary was deployed again on Friday (April 5),” Giberson-Shover noted with a touch of sadness and concern. She got involved with OYR after he joined the Army. “That’s when I started to see the soldiers’ needs when they were deployed,” she added.

Giberson-Shover came up with Fill-A-Bus in 2017 and has run it every year. Since its inaugural, the initiative has raised more than $100,000 in comfort items and donations from local businesses and residents.

Jennifer Knueppel – a volunteer with the OYR who welcomed visitors and directed vehicles during the April 7 event – said she was thrilled about the turnout.

“This is one of the big events,” shared Knueppel, pointing out the 30 dozen egg carton boxes the volunteers filled and loaded onto school buses donated by the Lenape Regional School District. “Our [organization] regularly sends care packages directly to 200 men and women around the globe through the U.S. Post Office.”

“I have some friends in the service who are on active duty,” volunteer Anna Yannessa said. “They really look forward to receiving the packages from home.”

Helping to fill buses were Thomas Wolff and Sherry Campanelli of the Medford Sunrise Rotary Club, which collects the donations from boxes around town, and Seth “Jekyll” Schoenfeld and AJ “Rage” Pancamo, members of the Pinelands chapter of the Knights of the Inferno Firefighter Military Motorcycle Club.

“I am a veteran with the Air National Guard,” said Schoenfeld, the club’s vice president. “It is a taste of home” for the troops overseas when the care packages arrive.”

Sergeant at Arms Pancamo, an Army veteran, said the motorcycle club is made up of first responders and military members proud to support OYR efforts. Students in the U.S. Air Force ROTC program at Seneca High school were also among volunteers for the Fill-A-Bus event, including Samuel Schmitz and Jonathan Glowacki.

A highlight of the day was when Marijean Andl, representing Operation One Nation, presented Giberson-Shover with a check for $35,571 to buy supplies and pay for shipping costs. A school bus driver and president of the Lenape district Support Staff Association, Andl said she was delighted by the large turnout and the commitment to “support the troops.”

Individuals who want to make donations can go to www.operationyellowribbon.org/donate-care-package-items for information about collection sites.

Items needed include protein bars and powder, liquid or powdered drink mixes, pouches of tuna or chicken (not cans), gum, candy, nuts, chips in cans, trail mix, dried fruit, baby powder and wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, saline eye drops, Chapstick, tissues, hand sanitizer, sunscreen lotion, breakfast bars, meat sticks, ground coffee, tea bags, sunflower seeds, deodorant sticks, shampoo, conditioner, bath soap, body lotion, emery boards, shower sponges and loofahs, Q-Tips and feminine hygiene products.

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