Shippensburg community donates ‘Totes of Hope’ to help homeless vets have a better life
By AMBER SOUTH
SOUTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP, CUMBERLAND COUNTY — A passion for helping people in need fueled a Shippensburg-area retirement community’s mission to give homeless veterans in central Pennsylvania a more comfortable life.
Members of Country Manor Adult Community collected a variety of personal care and comfort items over the past two months to donate to Totes of Hope, an American Red Cross program that for three years now has provided homeless veterans with backpacks filled with such products, said resident Theo “Bart” Bartholomew.
A committee of residents gathered in the gated community’s clubhouse Tuesday to divide the many dental care items, body hygiene products, personal comfort items and other products the Red Cross specifically requested into plastic grocery bags. Notes of thanks to veterans were also on the Red Cross’ list.
Bartholomew and his wife, Annette, collected one of each item and put them together as a completed tote. Country Manor collected enough of each item to make two other complete kits, although those were not put together.
Red Cross armed forces regional specialist Kathy Doran will pick up the donation Wednesday afternoon. The items will join other donations and be divided into Red Cross backpacks. The totes will go to distribution centers in Altoona and Lebanon and will be handed out to homeless veterans in March.
Looking out over the bag-covered tables, committee member Barry Kensinger said the community’s many participants made Tuesday’s preparation a big, but welcome, job. The community consists of about 130 homes, only a few of which have no residents, Bartholomew said.
The residents, not the committee, should receive the credit for making Country Manor’s contribution possible, Bartholomew said.
“The residents here care about our military, and that’s what this is all about, our veterans,” he said.
Groups like Country Manor are instrumental to Totes of Hope, Doran said.
“I think it’s great when a community like that takes on a project like this,” she added.
Country Manor has a personal connection because veterans make up more than 50 percent of the community’s population, Kensinger said. Bartholomew is part of that number, as he served in the U.S. Navy from 1957 to 1961, he said.
“We (Pennsylvania) have a lot of homeless veterans and I’m sure that they’ll be thankful for getting (a backpack),” Bartholomew said.
The Red Cross’ goal is to provide 200 backpacks to 200 veterans, Doran said. She did not know Monday how on track donations were so far since collection will be open through Feb. 28, but said contributions of all items are still needed.
People can drop off items at the Red Cross regional office in Carlisle, 79 E. Pomfret St., she said. Monetary donations are also welcome to help the Red Cross pay for the backpacks.
About 300 homeless veterans benefited from Totes of Hope last year, Doran said.
“If it were not for the generosity of the community this program would not exist,” she added.
Referring to Country Manor as a “sheltered” community, committee member Bob Day said Totes of Hope is a way for he and his neighbors to interact with other people and contribute help where it’s needed.
The program is the latest in a trend for Country Manor, as the community participated in similar projects for the past several years, Bartholomew said. Last year, residents sent 14 pallets of items to military personnel in Afghanistan.
Donations by the numbers
68 pairs of socks
9 rain ponchos
16 fleece throws
53 dental flosses
4 packs of batteries
36 body washes
52 pocket tissue packs
102 disposable razors
15 shaving creams
20 hand sanitizers
24 decks of cards
5 pocket mirrors
3 notes of thanks
5 antibacterial ointments
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.