Knights of Columbus Remember Veterans
EP Residents Perry, DeJesus Organize Christmas Gift Drive
Operation ROVAC or "Remember Our Veterans at Christmas" has concluded its sixth consecutive year of presenting the residents of the Rhode Island Veteran's Home in Bristol with bags full of Christmas gifts. ROVAC is a giving mission started by East Providence resident and Big Blue Bug Solutions (Pest Control) Technical Director, Tony DeJesus. The charity drive has been going on for close to twenty years. Around six years ago the East Providence Knights of Columbus council 1528 partnered with this effort. Led by local Knight Steven Perry, the Knights of Columbus (K of C) 1528 convinced most other Columbus members from throughout Rhode Island to lend a hand. Both DeJesus and Perry are East Providence High graduates and residents of the city.
Perry is the statewide ROVAC coordinator for the K of C and arranged for several other K of C councils in the state to drop off new clothing, toiletries and other gifts for the veterans at the East Providence council on Pawtucket Avenue. "We've gradually grown every year and from filling up two SUV's a few years ago, we now fill up a few 20 foot long panel trucks with new clothing, toiletries and gifts in our 6th year," said Perry. The Columbus Club members have been collecting donations and in mid-December K of C councils from all over the region braved a rain/snow storm to drop off donations at the Pawtucket Avenue hall. "One hundred percent of all donations get to the Veteran's Home and we do our best to honor our veterans. The veterans home has shut down the public cafeteria and has struggled of late. The K of C councils in Rhode Island are happy to help with these donations at Christmas," said Perry.
Some 200 extra large gift bags are prepared, sorted and distributed to the veterans in residence in the state's veteran's home in Bristol. "If there is anything left over, the home (Veterans) stores the items to give new incoming residents, many who come to the home with very few personal possessions," added Perry. The Knights efforts also provides many Christmas cards for the residents as many don't receive any at all. "Our council turned in over 200 cards and many of the state's catholic school students also submit cards. Many of the cards are home made by the students," said Perry.
"The idea of Operation ROVAC is to remember our veterans by bringing them donated gifts, with the help of Big Blue Bug Solutions, Knights of Columbus councils and individual donations," said Tony DeJesus. "The community provides the gifts, and we do the delivering. Gifts can be given by individuals or organizations. In the past, we have had support from schools, civic organizations, and religious groups. The outpouring of support has been inspiring. Too often, many of our local veterans are left without friends, family, and gifts during the holiday season. For all they have done for us, we can’t let our hometown vets go without," DeJesus added.
“It is really heartwarming to present the brave men and women of our Veteran’s Home with these Christmas gifts,” said Perry. Perry, DeJesus and the scores of volunteers spend several months getting ready for the ROVAC program. "Some of the items collected were board games and playing cards, socks, underwear, comfy pajamas, sweatshirts, slippers, etc.," said Perry. "This years' Saturday collection drive amassed the largest amount of donations yet. We want to get bigger every year.
The Rhode Island Veterans Home is a 110-acre complex on Mount Hope Bay in Bristol with about 208 beds. The home provides quality nursing and residential care to Rhode Island war veterans. Some of the services provided include social, medical, nursing and rehabilitative services.