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Shoe and Coat Fund garners more dollars than ever before

By Staff | Dec 23, 2016

Chronicle photo by Toni Milbourne Senior cadets in the Jefferson High School AFJROTC include Mariah Daffron, Isabella Reichel, Andrew Panzarella, Cole Devine, Macallister Maloney and Madeleine Saghy. Each of these cadets help lead the efforts to raise more than $37,000 for the Shoe and Coat Fund.

The Jefferson High School AFJROTC program continued this holiday season raising funds for the county’s Shoe and Coat Fund. The project, taken on by the unit in 2002, has worked hard each year to raise just a little bit more than the year before.

Cadet Macallister Maloney said, “It’s always increased every year. We set the bar higher each year.”

Cadet Andrew Panzarella, this year’s top money raiser, explained that social media helped play a big part of raising this year’s record-breaking $37,529.

“We have used GoFundMe pages to help raise money,” he said. Twenty=two cadets, including Panzarella, took advantage of the online fundraising mechanism to help increase their individual contributions to the fund.

But the online help was only a part of the total. In addition, cadets went door-to-door, explaining what they were doing and why it was important for individuals to contribute. Members of the unit also solicited businesses and sought permission to set up tables outside of local establishments to get donations from patrons.

The group sponsored a fundraiser concert featuring Jefferson County’s Community Choir where they held a silent auction, bringing in $1,000 at that event.

Panzarella said that from 2002 to 2010, the unit rasided approximately $28,000. Since that time, the cadets have set goals to try and increase the fund. This year’s goal, set at $25,000, was a step above the previous year’s $23,000 accomplishment. To reach the level they did, the cadets had to be committed.

The Jefferson County Shoe & Coat Fund each Christmas season buys shoes, coats and vital necessities for the less fortunate of Jefferson County. Cadets this year heard some real-life stories from Mary Ellen Lloyd, facilitator for student support, the Department of Pupil Services.

Major Phil Suydam, U.S. Air Force (Retired), director of the JROTC program at Jefferson High School, said that he believed hearing about actual people in need helped motivate the cadets more than ever before.

Group Commander, Cadet Cole Devine said that internal competition between cadets was a bit of a motivating factor as well.

“When I was a freshman,” Devine said, “I raised money so I?could get a ribbon. I?have grown to realize what it’s really for. I?can make a difference in the community.”

Madeleine Saghy was also inspired by making a difference in real lives of others.

“When Mrs. Lloyd told us stories, it made it so real,” Saghy said. “These real life stories–it touches you. It makes you feel good,” she shared.

For a small group of senior cadets, the move from participation for the sake of earning something personal, such as a ribbon for a uniform, has moved toward a positive outreach to help others. And the effort is a team one despite the motivating competitons set between cadets and flight groups.

Cadet Mariah Daffron explained that “the competition and incentives are all cadet run. We brainstorm for motivation–it’s not to individually gain something.”

She went on to say that while “it’s cool to get something on your uniform, over time you learn that’s not why we do it. It’s all about the people you impact.”

Isabella Reichel, another senior cadet, agrees that it is a team effort. She hopes that the work this year will inspire future ROTC units to outdo this year’s total.

“You get what you put into it,” she said. “It’s about benefitting one goal and working together,” she said of the success of this year’s unit.

Reichel sees herself continuing to help others even after she leaves the halls of Jefferson High School.

“I plan to continue contributing to this fund,” she said.

Panzarella agreed saying that he can see himself continuing in community service.

“I am very fortunate,” he said. “I see that reality that others are not as fortunate as I.”

Suydam praised his cadets saying that they are “interwoven into the community.” The Shoe & Coat Fund has become known in the community and people are very generous in their donations.

Over the years, some donors have become annual givers, Suydam said.

“Some place called the Rogers Rissler Foundation (based in New York) found out about the Jefferson County Shoe & Coat Fund, and they wanted to donate a $1,000,” Suydam said.

Suydam said that the efforts to raise the funds run through the month of November; however, individuals can give at any time. All funds raised by the efforts of the cadets go directly to help those in need.