Friday, March 19, 2010

Gloucester County Times

Military families aided with baby goods

March 19, 2010

MANTUA TWP. Most moms count on the loving support of family members and the generosity of a baby shower to help them welcome a new little one into the world.

But at eight-months pregnant and living on McGuire Air Force Base for the past seven months, Staff Sgt. April Halloway said she doesn't have that opportunity this time around.

Halloway, who is a month away from delivering her third child, said she was "like a kid in a candy store" Thursday morning when she and her husband came to a Gloucester County College building on Blackwood-Barnsboro Road to pick up a brand new crib, changing table and bedding for their new addition.

"We think this is great," Halloway said as she carried the bedding out to her husband who was waiting in their car.

The couple, and many other military couples, families, and wives whose husbands are still serving abroad, traveled to Mantua Township Thursday morning to pick up the donations.

The support was organized by Operation Homefront, which collaborated with LaJobi Inc, of Cranbury, and CoCaLo, of California Êtwo companies who donated the furniture and bedding.

There were 200 cribs, 200 changing tables, and bedding for all of it, stacked up in the empty garage space at the former Gloucester County parks and recreation building.

Men and women in fatigues, and moms holding baby carriers and toddlers hands, worked steadily to move the furniture into vehicles.

It's eased the burden for the LaRaia family, of Mount Holly. Kelly LaRaia said her husband Thomas is serving in Iraq with the 87th civil engineering squadron and won't be home until May. They have two daughters, two-year-old Aurora, and seven-month-old Aine. LaRaia was picking up a crib and table for the baby, and one for another military family who just had a baby the night before.

"It's 24 hours a day, every day, taking care of two kids by myself," LaRaia said of the struggle being on her own while Thomas is abroad.

Tracy Handschuh, chapter president of Operation Homefront New York/New Jersey, said the organization is happy to help out, especially knowing that some 3,000 veterans returned in the spring.

"It's so exciting to see all these new moms to be," Handschuh said as she watched the families load up their cars. For many of them, the fathers are away, and even when they return, they have financial issues to worry about, not to mention adjusting to civilian life.

"This is one less thing they have to worry about," she said.

No comments: