When Kathy MacCutcheon's son called home from Afghanistan, he told her that many of the U.S. Armed Forces were without essentials such as blankets, chapstick, socks and sunscreen.
As a mother, MacCutcheon knew she had to do something to help, but did not settle for only helping her son.
She began buying and collecting everything from blankets, chapstick, socks and baby wipes to lotion, sunscreen and power bars and mailing them overseas. At $12.95 per box shipped, in addition to the cost of the contents of the box, MacCutcheon's mission is not a cheap one.
Stopping is not an option, so to properly collect donations MacCutcheon began her own charity, Help Us Help Them.
Since she started Help Us Help Them, MacCutcheon said she has shipped over 400 APO boxes, which amounts to over 700 pounds, of supplies to the U.S. Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan.
The charity would have never gotten off the ground, MacCutcheon said, without the assistance of the Washington Engine Company of the Matawan Borough Fire Department.
"If it wasn't for these guys, I don't know what I would have done. They really helped. I couldn't have done it without them," she said.
The fire company is continuing their support of Help Us Help Them by donating a percentage of their proceeds from their annual Christmas tree and wreath sale.
Located at 176 Jackson Street in Matawan, the company normally uses all of the proceeds for building maintenance and other company needs as the property is not owned by the borough.
This year, the sale will run until Dec. 23 or until the trees run out. Blue Spruce and Douglas Furs between six and eight feet tall are being sold for $35, decorated wreaths are being sold for $20 and non-decorated wreaths are being sold for $15.
The charity and Washington Engine Company's support came full circle earlier this year, when MacCutcheon received a letter from Captain James Williams. The letter thanked her for her donations, and let her know that her items were being received and shared all over western Afghanistan. It wasn't until she shared the letter with Matawan Borough Fire Department First Lt. Chris Lambros that they realized that Williams, a Matawan resident, is the son of former Matawan Borough Fire Department member and highly decorated military man, John Williams.
"I shipped the box to him without even knowing," MacCutcheon said.
"I couldn't believe it. His father, John Williams, his picture is hanging downstairs, never to be taken down," Lambros said, referring to the banquet area in Washington Engine Company.
MacCutcheon said she often receives thank you's from the men and women she helps overseas, and keeps in regular contact with as many as she can. The letters are not only reminders that every package she sends helps, but also a token of appreciation to be kept close to her heart.
To purchase a wreath or a tree, stop by Washington Engine Company at 176 Jackson Street in Matawan Monday-Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to purchase a tree or wreath.
To donate directly to Help Us Help Them, drop off supplies at Kathy MacCutcheon's restaurant, The Kat Shack, at 254 Main Street in Matawan.