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Warming hearts

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

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

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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. ••

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

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