Homeless Veterans Benefit From Unique Partnership

On July 25th, Ray Chimileski, Executive Director and Maj. Anthony DeStefanno, USAR Retired and Homeless Veterans’ Outreach Coordinator, both of whom are with Operation Chillout, Inc., received the keys to a refurbished and decommissioned ambulance from the Borough of Roselle Park and the volunteer Roselle Park First Aid Squad (RPFAS).

The donation was made possible by the efforts of Rotary Club of Roselle-Roselle Park President Kevin Murphy who is also the Chief Operations Officer of the Veterans Chamber of Commerce-NJ. Earlier this year, incoming Rotary District 7510 Governor Tulsi Mahajan, PhD. approached Mr. Murphy asking for support to help homeless veterans, estimated between 7,500-8,000 within the state.

It was learned immediately that besides donations of water – 25,000 distributed last year – Operation Chillout was in desperate need for a transportation vehicle that would be able to deliver supplies and take homeless veterans that needed medical attention to the closest VA medical facility. Kevin, who is also a member of the RPFAS, contacted First Ward Councilman Andrew Casais requesting that the governing body consider donating an ambulance which was decommissioned and replaced by a donated ambulance from Union County. The councilman then brought it up for a vote at the June meeting which was unanimously approved by the governing body. Upon hearing of the approval, KM Signs & Graphics, with the help of RPFAS member Paul Oehler, refurbished the ambulance to meet the needs of homeless veterans. Members of the Roselle Park Board Of Education (BOE), students, and residents began collecting cases of water which were loaded into the ambulance for distribution.

Jim Brody contacted Mr. George Thomas of Galloping Hill Caterers in Union and Mr. Thomas graciously became the sponsor of the dinner which was held on Thursday evening July 25. The dinner was extremely well attended by members of the chamber, local businesses, Rotary Clubs representing Roselle-Roselle Park, Union, Elizabeth, Watchung, Princeton Corridor, Scotch Plains, and Westfield. Also present were the Roselle Park First Aid Squad and the Mayors from Roselle and Fanwood.

The evening was capped by the turning over of the keys to the ambulance from Councilman-At-Large Carl Hokanson, RPFAS President Lisa Malave, RPFAS Captain Glen Costello. The Rotary Club members of Roselle Park made a donation which was matched by the Veterans Chamber of Commerce-NJ. Other private donations were also made which included a 32″ flat screen TV won by a Rotarian and donated to Operation Chillout for use at their recreation center.

At the end of the night, Kevin Murphy concluded by saying that there are a number of private organization in the state that are helping our men and female veterans, many with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). He stated, “It would be in our interest for every organization to adopt and team up with an organization, such as Operation Chill out, and try to give back to those who have given up so much for us.”

The Veterans Chamber of Commerce-NJ will be teaming up with Operation Chillout to have a Fall Golf Classic in which the net proceeds will be used to prepare homeless veterans for survival through the winter months ahead. Golfers and sponsors will be needed.