Shelton vets arrange delivery of $2 million to injured soldiers

SHELTON — Two city veterans have learned that gifts can go a long way in improving lives.

Shelton residents Jodi LoDolce and Al Meadows, who served in the Marines and Army respectively, are both members of the Operation Gift Cards program committee. The all-volunteer program arranged for the delivery of more than $2 million in Post Exchange Service gift cards and corporate donations to injured soldiers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Md., and at Ft. Belvior, Va. for 204 visits over the past 16 years.

A total of 25 Shelton residents participated in the two-day tours.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart Derby/Shelton Chapter 1 and Disabled American Veterans Stamford Chapter 13 were the first organizations to volunteer to co-sponsor a visit to Walter Reed Military Hospital for Operation Gift Cards.

Several dozen units from other major veterans organizations have joined as co-sponsors, including the Disabled American Veterans Dept. of Connecticut Service Foundation, Inc., which purchases PX gift cards for Operation gift cards, and Hooks for Heroes CT, which raises funds. for Operation gift cards.

The program has 82 organizations or families who have become co-sponsors of the program by purchasing $1,000 of Post Exchange gift cards, which are available in amounts of $25. They can send a representative to hand-deliver their donation to wounded troops.

Smaller donations are collected until the amount reaches $1,000, then Chapter 13 of Disabled American Veterans will send a disabled veteran to deliver the gift cards, which LoDolce says is therapeutic for the veteran.

Operation Gift Cards’ mission is to make monthly visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir.

LoDolce said the goals of the program are to personally thank Walter Reed and Ft. Belvoir patients for their service; offer all patients visited a total of $75 in Post Exchange gift cards; inform patients of who to contact regarding the services available to them when they return to their country of origin; provide a means for veteran organizations and individuals to donate items to various Walter Reed support groups such as the Red Cross and Fisher House; and to provide an opportunity for local injured and disabled veterans to participate in a visit to Walter Reed as part of their healing process.

She said Operation Gift Cards also coordinates the attendance of Walter Reed patients and ex-patients, as weekend guests, at events such as the Take A Vet fishing program, the Hooks For Heroes CT program from the Stamford Halloween Yacht Club and veteran fisherman charters from Kathy Granfield. All events involve fishing trips on Long Island Sound.

For more information, contact the President of the Al Meadows Gift Card Operation at (203) 988-2792 or [email protected]

[email protected]

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