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Stark County agencies collecting items for veterans

Jessica Clifton, Stark County VSO officer, right, and Nicole Roberts, Stark County Wellness Committee, work together at Stark County Courthouse to gather supplies donated to the county's veterans for the holidays. Among items being collected through Wednesday are blankets, backpacks, socks and winter weather clothing. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

The Stark County Veterans Service Office and Stark County Wellness Committee have partnered to collect supplies for area veterans during the holidays.

Through Wednesday, VSO, located in the Stark County Courthouse, is taking donations to help the county's low-income veterans.

"We're gathering personal care items," said Jessica Clifton, Stark County Veterans Service officer. "Some cold weather gear, such as sweatshirts, sweatpants, jackets, socks, some thermals, blankets and backpacks, right now have been brought forward to us."

The idea was brought to Clifton by Stark County employees.

"They came to me and wanted to know how they could help veterans, so we came up with the idea of a veteran angel tree, to make sure the gifts stay local and they go to the veterans in need in our community," Clifton said.

Nicole Roberts, Stark County wellness coordinator, said she was happy to participate in the effort.

"Other offices in the county do angel trees for different groups of people, and we always have a tree, so we just kind of talked about it and decided to do an angel tree," Roberts said. "It's nice to give back to the community and give back for everything they've done, all the sacrifices they have made."

The effort will benefit 20 veterans who fall under the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs supportive housing program, HUD-VASH, Clifton said, among others.

"There are some elderly veterans who are without family in our community," she said. "There will be some gifts that will be donated to them, just so they know they're not forgotten about during the holiday season."

For Clifton, it is an honor to serve the area's veterans.

"I'm a veteran, too," she said, "and it's nice to know the community and the Stark County employees want to give back to the veterans who have served their country. This is a way we can serve those who have served for us."

The interest in the county's angel tree has been "overwhelming," Roberts said.

"I initially put out 20 flags on the tree and within five days I had to add another 10 and now I added another 10," she said. "I haven't counted to see how many are left, but I opened it up to the entire courthouse, so the state side is participating as well."

She added, "It was very nice to see everybody willing to give back to the veterans.

Donations don't only have to be made during the holiday season.

"Anytime throughout the year, if any individual or organization wants to help the veterans, we will make sure it goes to the rightful veteran who needs assistance," Clifton said.

Collecting supplies, which started Dec. 1, ends Wednesday.

"If anybody wants to bring an item for a veteran, we ask they come by the close of business on December 20th," Clifton said, "because then they'll be packaged up and distributed to the veterans of the community."