Operation Care Package
By Kim Bogosian
In January of this year, Rutherford resident and Navy veteran Tom Van Dyk reached out to other residents via Facebook to see who would be interested in compiling care packages for military members overseas to help them with the “challenges they face being away from family, friends and a normal way of life.”
The community responded enthusiastically and he spent the last 6 weeks collecting enough items to fill 168 care packages. Over the weekend of March 9th and 10th, Tom gathered more volunteers to sort, fill and ready the packages for shipping at the American Legion Post 109 on Carmita Avenue in Rutherford.
This is Rutherford followed up with Tom for a little history about himself and what drove him to help others.
TIR: What is your personal history with the military, if any?
TV: I joined the United States Navy shortly after 9/11 happened until 2012. I was stationed in Norfolk, VA on the USS Saipan LHA-2, Naval Support Activity Bahrain and ended my Naval career at Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston in Charleston, SC. My jobs in the military were: a logistics specialist, technical rescue team leader, and a Corrections specialist. Fun fact: I was the only Rutherford resident, that I know of, who actually was privileged enough to to be selected by my base out of over 4,000 service members to have breakfast with President Bush while stationed in Bahrain and yes, that is my claim to fame.
TIR: What is your history with Rutherford?
TV: I grew up in Rutherford. Since 1984, I have lived in Rutherford. My family, the Van Dyks and DeMarcos, have been in town since the 1950s. I've played many Little League games at Memorial Field, many basketball games in the various gyms in town and many Babe Ruth baseball games at Tamblyn field. This town made me who I am and I am very grateful for it. This is why it meant a lot to me to give back if I could.
TIR: What made you initially go on Facebook and request care packages to our troops?
TV: Two kids in town that I grew up with, Brendan Cahill and Johnny DellaFave, recently got deployed overseas with the Air National Guard unit. When I was deployed the best thing we ever got were care packages. Since this is their first real deployment it means a lot for their mental well-being to get some things from people that care about them back home. When you're deployed, there is a lot of mental anguish that comes along with the physical demands. The mental ones are harder to get over than the physical ones, but once you get something from home, it helps reduce any pain or anguish that you are feeling. So I felt that if I could help by getting a few things out to them, and anybody else who's deployed from town, it will make a world of difference in their lives. Plus, when you're in the middle of the desert or somewhere where you don't have the common goods you can find at Shop-Rite, a stick of deodorant goes a long way (laughs).
TIR: Who will be receiving these care packages?
TV: There are about five or six people from town that are deployed and will receive packages every quarter for the next year when they are deployed. Since there was such a huge response and we were able to package up 168 care packages, we are able to donate a lot of packages to adopt a platoon (the Bergen County veterans association and the Orange County veterans association in New York state). All of these organizations have their own list of deployed locals that can benefit from Rutherford's generosity.
TIR: How many people ultimately participated in this project, either by donating good and/or volunteering time?
TV: There were about 40 people that showed up to help package items on March 9th and 10th at the American Legion in Rutherford. There were a total of 22 people who donated items, which does not include the people who dropped off items the day of the event.
TIR: Do you foresee doing any more projects like this in the future?
TV: For the time being my focus is on my first son that will be arriving in May which is so exciting, but after the dust settles with his arrival. I would absolutely love to host and organize another event like this as it brings tremendous value to the community and those who benefit from it.
TIR: What are you doing since you separated from the military?
TV: I am a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley in Paramus where I help individuals and businesses grow, accumulate, and protect their wealth. I've been in finance for over 7 years and brought my country first attitude to a Client First business model. I loved my time in the military because I was able to serve my country. I absolutely love what I do now because I'm able to serve the people of the community in such a unique and interesting way that I feel no other person can provide like I do.
TIR: Where can additional goods go?
TV: I am still getting requests from people to this day asking if I am still accepting donations. At this time I am not gathering anymore supplies, but I will tell and do tell people that if they do have supplies please donate them to the Rutherford food pantry for the local residents who may benefit from additional resources.