Warming hearts

  • Volunteer Al Jones delivered the donations. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • The gift of giving: (From left) Cousins Andrew Turner, 12, and John Quirk, 14, from Blessed Trinity Regional Catholic School, and Father Judge senior Austin Mikula, 18, load donations for a winter clothing drive for veterans organized by McCafferty Funeral Home. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

John Quirk V has a lot more in com­mon with his grand­fath­er, John Quirk III, than the name they share.

The eld­er Quirk, 67, is a United States mil­it­ary vet­er­an who fought in the Vi­et­nam War and earned a Purple Heart. His grand­son is still an eighth-grader at May­fair’s Blessed Trin­ity Re­gion­al Cath­ol­ic School on the grounds of St. Timothy’s Church, but he already is dis­play­ing a ded­ic­a­tion to ser­vice of which the whole com­munity could be proud.

Quirk V and his cous­in, An­drew Turn­er, were two of the biggest col­lect­ors in a re­cent winter cloth­ing drive for vet­er­ans sponsored and or­gan­ized by the James A. Mc­Caf­ferty Fu­ner­al Home. Turn­er is a sev­enth-grader at Blessed Trin­ity.

On the high school level, Fath­er Judge seni­or Aus­tin Mikula was the top per­former. Stu­dents from the two schools col­lec­ted more than 700 sweat­ers, 120 pairs of gloves, 54 coats, 40 hats and 500 as­sor­ted art­icles of cloth­ing to be­ne­fit vets.

They gave some of the items to eld­erly res­id­ents of the Delaware Val­ley Vet­er­ans Home in the Far North­east, with the rest go­ing to the Phil­adelphia Vet­er­ans Multi-Ser­vice Cen­ter, which will dis­trib­ute them among the city’s needy vets and also use them to stock the racks in the Cam­ou­flage Rhino Thrift Store at 7126 Frank­ford Ave. Pro­ceeds from all thrift shop sales also be­ne­fit loc­al vets in need.

ldquo;We did it be­cause of our grand­fath­er. He’s a Vi­et­nam vet and has a Purple Heart,” Quirk V said on Nov. 12 as vo­lun­teers loaded more than 50 bags of cloth­ing onto a box truck out­side Mc­Caf­ferty Fu­ner­al Home. “It makes me feel good and proud. He’s like a war hero and I’m glad he sur­vived.”

Fu­ner­al dir­ect­or Mark Mc­Caf­ferty first ap­proached of­fi­cials at Judge and Blessed Trin­ity with the idea of a cloth­ing drive for vet­er­ans. Mc­Caf­ferty is an alum­nus of both schools, al­though Blessed Trin­ity was still named St. Timothy School dur­ing his time there. 

“It was a great idea from Mc­Caf­ferty Fu­ner­al Home, es­pe­cially with us cel­eb­rat­ing Vet­er­ans Day (on Nov. 11),” said the Rev. Joseph Campel­lone, pres­id­ent of Fath­er Judge High School. “A large por­tion of our alumni are in­volved in (mil­it­ary) ser­vice and a big por­tion are vets.

“Those men give us the free­dom to prac­tice re­li­gion and to have a school to de­vel­op young men. They give us the free­dom to live in this na­tion and par­ti­cip­ate in what our Con­sti­tu­tion calls us to do.”

Mc­Caf­ferty said he got the idea from Vet­er­ans & Fam­ily Me­mori­al Care, a na­tion­al or­gan­iz­a­tion of about 1,000 fu­ner­al pro­viders who sup­port vets. He was the only Phil­adelphia fu­ner­al dir­ect­or se­lec­ted by the or­gan­iz­a­tion to par­ti­cip­ate in its Op­er­a­tion Sweat­ers for Vet­er­ans pro­gram.

“We were the only fu­ner­al home in the city to get nom­in­ated to do this and we were thrilled,” said Mc­Caf­ferty, whose grand­fath­ers and fath­er were vet­er­ans.

As an in­cent­ive to the stu­dents, Mc­Caf­ferty offered schol­ar­ship money to the most pro­lif­ic con­trib­ut­ors at each school. Mikula earned a $1,000 grant, while Quirk and Turn­er split a $500 award.

But their ef­forts had little to do with the money in­volved.

“I just wanted to help the vet­er­ans, so I tried to do my best,” Mikula said. “I went around to all my neigh­bors and a couple of my friends and our lunch moms.”

Mikula’s fath­er, Greg, is a Coast Guard vet­er­an and city fire­fight­er.

“That was kind of my mo­tiv­a­tion, my dad and stuff,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to mom Tracy, Mikula has been in­volved in oth­er ser­vice pro­jects. Last sum­mer, he helped ren­ov­ate homes for low-in­come rur­al folks in the Ap­palachi­an re­gion. A standout base­ball play­er for Judge, Mikula plans to at­tend col­lege next year, pos­sibly Penn State-Har­ris­burg.

Vet­er­ans will get a lot of use out of the stuff col­lec­ted by the youths.

PVMC vo­lun­teer Rose McGee said that vets in need can get vouch­ers from the cen­ter, at 4th and Flor­ist streets in Old City. Then they can go to Cam­ou­flage Rhino to get sup­plies that they need. Many are un­em­ployed and home­less or have phys­ic­al and men­tal ill­nesses con­nec­ted with their mil­it­ary ser­vice.

“When we place them in new homes, they can come (to the thrift store) to get fur­niture,” McGee said. “And be­fore they go on job in­ter­views, they can come in and get clothes.”

“The pur­pose of the Multi-Ser­vice Cen­ter is to give vets a hand up,” said vo­lun­teer Bri­an Mor­gan, a U.S. Army vet­er­an. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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